NEWS

First-home buyers to get boost

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is expected to announce this weekend that property tax levels will be changed to favor buyers and the government yesterday revealed plans to boost the public housing market. During his keynote economic address at the Thessaloniki International Fair tomorrow, Karamanlis is expected to announce that the tax-free ceiling for first-time home buyers will be raised from 65,000 to 100,000 euros for single people and to 130,000 euros for couples. A senior Finance Ministry source said this change was prompted by the recent rises in property prices. The government also plans to settle 1 million property sales held up due to property tax complications. The government declared yesterday that it will sell off houses in the Olympic Village at almost half the price expected and bring in zero interest rate mortgages for some low-income families. Labor Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos made the announcement at a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Workers’ Housing Association (OEK) in Thessaloniki. The 2,914 Olympic Village properties up for sale through a public lottery system for qualifying families, will be sold at 850 euros per square meter as opposed to 1,510 euros, which had been the price proposed by OEK’s board. Panayiotopoulos also said OEK, which is operated by the Labor Ministry, is now in a position to substantially increase mortgage subsidies for workers who qualify for its scheme. Under the new plan, a married worker with three children and a yearly income of 14,073 euros would pay no interest on a 15-year mortgage. Other categories of workers will benefit as well and the basic mortgage rate, for those who fulfill the organization’s criteria, will fall from roughly 5.5 to below 3 percent.