Shoebox apartments can help ease Athens housing shortage


With available apartments in the center of Athens few and far between amidst the boom in short term property rentals, there is one solution that could help ease the capital's housing shortage: microapartments.

Also known as microflats or shoebox apartments, microapartments are a one-room, self-contained living space, up to 35 square metres that features a kitchenette, a sleeping space and bathroom.

The concept has yet to take off in Greece, but the country's fast changing real estate market may be creating the right conditions for Greeks to start living in compact spaces. Apart from a shortage of homes being available in districts, such as Exarcheia, Kolonaki and Koukaki, rent costs have also jumped in recent years. There is, however, a stock of properties in these neighbourhoods that could be better utilised and offer better returns, according to engineer and interior designer Giorgos Liaskas.

"Most of the places that are available in the city center are small, up to 50 square meters. Many owners rent out these smaller spaces as storage rooms, thinking that this is their only choice. But this is not the case. For example, lets a take a 20 square meter storage area that could be sold for 10,000 euros. By investing up to 12,000 euros to turn it into a microapartment, the owner could sell the place for more than 30,000 euros," says Liaskas.

Popular in many European capitals, such as London, Paris and Rome, the microapartment features pull down beds, folding desks and tables, and extra-small or hidden appliances. Every inch is important, says Liaskas, who adds that "anything can be potentially turned into storage area." The proper design is crucial.

"You don't want to bump your knees on the bed every time you walk past," he says.

But a basic prerequisite for microapartments to spring up in the center of Athens is a change in mindset. Many Greeks reject the idea that their home could be less than 100 square meters even though property prices have risen sharply versus anemic economic growth. Tight lending from Greek banks and a weak labour market are making the purchase of a larger home even harder to achieve.

"Many people have not thought about living in a house that is not 100 square meters," says Liaskas. "Greeks don't give themselves permission to think that emotions of joy and happiness can be felt in a smaller home too."

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