Finding an affordable flat to rent in Athens has recently turned into an almost impossible affair. In the past five years, rents in the Greek capital have risen sharply, whilst at the same time period real wages have collapsed. One of the many possible causes behind the scarcity of rental space is the transformation of dwellings into short-term holiday flats. Airbnb is not the only provider, but definitely the largest and most iconic one.
Indeed, in the centre of Athens alone, the number of listings on the platform rose from 1,500 in 2014 to 7,500 two years later, and up to 16,000 by June 2018. These flats are not distributed evenly in the city, but affect certain areas more heavily (Plaka, Thisio, Koukaki, Exarcheia). In 2016, Koukaki featured as number 5 of Airbnb’s sixteen recommended neighbourhoods worldwide causing residents to form an association in order to stop their displacement. A recent law has made attempts to regulate the development: limits to the rental period (max. 90 days a year); the prohibition to rent out more than one flat under the same tax number (and thus avoid businesses with multi-site rentals); and a progressive tax system for income from short-term rentals.
In this blog article I explore the opportunities of creating an institutional framework for citizen participation in the new public company Athens Urban Renewal SA.
The consequences of eight years of austerity can be seen everywhere in Athens. The past years have left deep scars in the fabric of the Greek capital: unemployment and homelessness, poverty and public disinvestment, growing social rifts and street riots – paired with a threatening growth of extreme right-wing ideology permeating many aspects of public life (e.g. media, police, justice, church – even schools). At the same time, the number of tourists visiting the capital has risen exponentially, creating tensions in the housing market, as more and more flats turn into holiday rentals, making prices soar. While the art scene is flourishing, youth unemployment remains above 40%. Abandoned buildings and deteriorating public space on the one hand; AirBnBs, vibrant street life, cafés and entertainment venues on the other. I can’t remember Athens so fascinating and so depressing at the same time.
The Municipality of Athens has undertaken a series of measures to tackle those issues, including the renewal of central neighbourhoods and the rehabilitation of municipal buildings among others (s. Vaiou 2018 for a critical assessment of the reuse of the former municipal market). Additionally, a new public organization with the telling name of AthensUrban Renewal S.A. (Athens Anaplasis SA.) was founded, complementing the actions of the Municipality. I was asked by its President, Prof Nikos Belavilas, to join the advisory scientific committee of this new state agent, an invitation which I gladly accepted, as I see here the opportunity to institutionalize citizen participation in urban development. Continue reading “Principles of citizen participation in urban development in Athens”→
In the history of urban planning, we have seen regular paradigm shifts that often reflect broader societal developments as much as disciplinary trends and fashions. Few feuds in the discipline have reached the emblematic status that had the one between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs about the future of New York city in the 1960s: Moses, the powerful planner, on the one hand, who believed that only a destruction of the existing structures could lead to better city, and Jacobs, the journalist-turned-activist, on the other, who wanted to protect precisely what the first one sought to extinguish. Jacobs firmly believed that it was the lively streets of her beloved Greenwich Village, the mix of cultures and lifestyles and the animated grittiness of the public space that made cities worth living in.
Journal of Place Management and Development, Volume 11, Issue 2: Special Issue: “Participatory placemaking: concepts, methods and practice”. Editor: Ares Kalandides
Members of the IPM can download the articles for free here.
The objective of this COST Action is to contribute to structuring existing knowledge and to developing innovative approaches on how to build more secure and safe cities. Studies have shown that there is a correlation between the structure and organization of urban space and crime: new criminological theory supports this point of view. The Justice and Home Affairs Council of the EU has underlined that crime prevention through design is a successful and effective strategy for crime prevention and needs to be supported. Despite this, new projects are being implemented all over Europe without considering safety criteria, creating urban areas where crime or fear of crime can make life difficult.
Details on the conference location, speakers and themes as well as hotel recommendations can be found here.
Join us for another IPM study trip – this time to Athens, Greece.
This 3-day accredited educational trip to Athens is a combination of site visits, lectures & workshops as well as meetings with local place managers (local partnerships, markets, town centre revewal, local initiatives, local tourism etc.). Athens is a particularly interesting case study as Place Management here takes place in an extended economic crisis with the voluntary sector often taking over the role of both state and private sector.