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H.A.R.T.A (Housing Affordability in Real Terms Act)

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Alfred Landecker Democracy Fellow Nikos Vrantsis is currently an Assistant Researcher of Social Sustainability of Alternative Housing Models at the Institute of Urban Research in Uppsala and part of the URBACT local group of Thessaloniki.

Like many other towns in rural Greece, Naoussa is a shrinking, rural municipality with an ageing population and a declining economy that is struggling to recover from the impact of heavy deindustrialization and  socioeconomic decline, that was exacerbated after the eruption of the financial crisis in 2008. Many youngsters who leave the city in search of studies or work, choose not to return. A large portion of the young population that does remain in Naoussa struggles with unemployment (or underemployment) and faces housing challenges due to the lack of affordability. 

A large portion of the young population that does remain in Naoussa struggles with unemployment (or underemployment) and faces housing challenges due to the lack of affordability.

In 2019, a population of  two hundred asylum seekers, was relocated from the Greek Islands in two hotels in the outskirts of Naoussa. Despite the declared desire of some of them to remain in the city, their search for housing was unfruitful:

  1. due to lack of affordable houses,
  2. due to an unwelcoming environment,
  3. due to the administrative inaction to implement an integration strategy with a strong housing component
  4. due to deficiencies in the integration programs.

However, the demographic drain of the previous decades has led to a surplus of unused housing.  Naoussa is thus witnessing a paradox: the extended housing stock of this ageing city remains inactive and resources remain unused while increasing numbers of the remaining and new population are experiencing inadequate and temporal housing options and have low access to affordable housing opportunities.  Those most affected are the ones dependent on pressing housing environments with no other alternative (unemployed youth, women in strong patriarchal environments, people from the LGTBQI+ community etc.) and those with no access to informal, friendly or family networks to support them vis-a-vis the strategy of minimum intervention of all administrative levels from housing provision.

Housing – A Fundamental Element of Inclusion

Housing is a fundamental element of inclusion and is an inseparable element of the wellbeing of individuals.

Housing is a fundamental component  of inclusion & integration and an inseparable element of the wellbeing of individuals. However, like other urban and rural areas of Greece, there is little availability of affordable, good-quality housing to vulnerable groups in Naoussa, thus undermining the exercise of their right to adequate shelter. Therefore, this project focuses on the mapping and identification of housing potential in rural areas, with a particular focus on inactive housing stock and abandoned resources. The methodology that would be adopted and implemented in Naoussa will hopefully become a methodological blueprint to be used in other rural areas for rapid assessment of housing availability.

The project will attempt to carry out awareness-raising activities to shift the negative narratives surrounding migration.

The local group, led by Nikos is entitled H.A.R.T.A (Housing Affordability In Real Terms Act) and has launched the drafting of a detailed report about the local housing condition, in order to fill the gap of data around the total demand for affordable housing (total population under housing stress). The next step of the project will be to conduct a detailed mapping of the inactive housing and other abandoned resources of the city. Given the absence of available data, the first objective of the project is (i) to generate shared knowledge of the housing opportunities, the unused potential of the resources, their characteristics, and the exact location and (ii) to define the methodology and test the rapid creation of both a detailed dataset and the map of the inactive housing stock of Naoussa. The map will attempt to catalog the housing stock according to its particular qualities, including — among others— their size in square meters and rooms, the age of the construction, the interventions needed to make it a good quality housing unit.  

Eventually, the data provided by the previous steps of the research will be the stepping stone for an evidence-based awareness-raising campaign for the right to housing in affordable, non-exclusive terms, aiming at shifting negative narratives surrounding migration. In particular, to reframe migration as a resource instead of a burden and to generate an inclusive narrative by highlighting that housing challenges are affecting all vulnerable individuals, regardless of their background.

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