Improving inner-city living conditions would help stop the spread of urban housing into parts of eastern Attica and put the brakes on disappearing forest areas, a research group said yesterday. A study prepared by the Institute of Strategic and Development Studies (ISTAME) showed that the number of residents in Attica grew by 200,000 over the last decade. In 1990, residential housing covered 15 percent of Attica but by 2000, the figure had risen by 3 percent to 18 percent. Most of the expansion was along the stretch of the recently built Attiki Odos that links Athenian suburbs with the airport. ISTAME recommended that the government take steps to control this growth and prompt residents to move back into the heart of the city, such as introducing toll booths for access into central Athens. «People are aware of the problems faced by (inner) Athens, but they love this area. If the situation in the city center improves, then this will help stop the city’s expansion,» said town planner Alexandros Karvounis. According to ISTAME, there has been a shift of residents moving into central areas such as Psyrri and Thiseion. Recent data from Kappa Research showed that 72 percent of residents who live in the city center have no intention of leaving the area for another neighborhood in the next few years. Figures released yesterday showed that forest areas in Attica shrank by 103 square kilometers between 1990 to 2000, mainly due to destruction by forest fires. A small portion of the scorched earth has been built upon, some 2.3 square kilometers, while the rest has turned into scrubland.