ECONOMY

Better transport boosts value of central Athens housing

The Athens city center witnessed a mass exodus of upwardly mobile middle-class families seeking better living conditions in the 1980s and most of the 1990s. Housing values were further depressed by an influx of low-income immigrants. Now, however, a revival is apparent. The main reason for this reversal is to be found in the opening of the two lines of the Athens metro, in early 2000. Although not yet complete, the metro made access to the city center far easier and dramatically cut the need for central Athens residents to use their cars. Another factor contributing to the revival of the city center is the upgrading of many central neighborhoods as part of an ambitious program to pedestrianize the city’s main archaeological areas and in an attempt to beautify the city ahead of the Athens Olympics. Moreover, the abundance of leisure facilities has encouraged many, especially younger, people to seek housing in the center. The city’s three most expensive areas, the area around the presidential mansion, Kolonaki and Plaka have not lost their standing over the years, according to a survey by real estate company Property. However, prices have gone way up during the past six years. In September 2003, a flat in the Presidential Palace area (near Rigillis) could be bought for an average price of 3,750 euros per square meter, a 101.4 percent increase from September 1997. An apartment in Kolonaki goes for 3,041 euros per square meter, up 126 percent from 1997, while a flat, or a house, in Plaka, is selling for an average of 2,870 euros per square meter, up 153.5 percent. The fourth most expensive Athens districts is hard by Vassileos Constantinou Avenue, near the much-suffering sculpture of US President Harry Truman. People may consider this natural nowadays, but in 1997 this area was 21st on the list of most expensive Athens neighborhoods. Since then, prices per square meter have gone up 279.8 percent, to 2,684 euros. Another area experiencing a rapid rise in prices is Mets, to the south and southwest of the Panathenaic Stadium, where prices have risen 156.9 percent to an average of 2,375 euros per sq.m. According to real estate agents, this was due, in part, to the availability of new luxury housing. In sixth place is a rather off-center area, but still within the limits of the Athens municipality. Nea Filothei housing now has an average price of 2,304 euros per square meter, up 155.6 percent from September 1997. The area around the Lycabettus hill has also seen prices more than double (up 137.2 percent), to 2,297 euros per sq.m. but has fallen to seventh place, from fifth in 1997. The fairly recent transformation of Apostolou Pavlou Street, below the Acropolis, to a pedestrian street has already boosted prices in the area, real estate agents say. The same can be said of the Psyrri and Thiseion districts, recently upgraded as well and serving as two of the city’s most important entertainment centers. Far outside the city center, the district of Kareas is another prime example of the benefits of improved transportation. The district boasts the second highest rate of increase in housing prices over the last six years (257.8 percent). The opening of the Hymettus Peripheral Highway, and much easier access to Athens International Airport, is expected to lift prices even higher. An average house in Kareas sells for 2,250 euros per square meter, while house prices in nearby Ilioupolis also exceed 2,000 euros per square meter.