2018 | Dec
Athens is at the top of the list of Greek cities in terms of the presence of the dominant building type of the polykatoikia (apartment block). Its central municipalities saw intensive construction of the polykatoikia model in the first three post-war decades of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s as well as the land-for-flats barter mechanism (antiparochi). Today, 40 years after this period of intensive construction, the image of the city has hardly changed. This entry highlights the fact that these post-war polykatoikies—despite the depreciation they have experienced since the 1980s and 1990s due to the quality degradation of housing conditions in the central areas and the outflow of residents to the then sparsely populated suburbs (Μαλούτας, 2000)—are in permanent use as they constantly get new residents coming from diverse social groups.
Recording the use and ownership patterns of apartments in the Athenian apartment block (polykatoikia)
The polykatoikies that were built in the first three post-war decades of the 50s-70s in Athens  remain the same in number but aged and, mainly, depreciated.
The depreciation of this dominant building type of Athens raises questions. What will be the end of the natural life of these buildings? Is there or will there be gradual abandonment of polykatoikies? Can changes in the ownership status of polykatoikies reverse the downturn? (Μαντουβάλου, Μπαλλά, 2004)
In recent years there has been a shift of interest regarding the future of the Athenian polykatoikia, especially in academia. Gradually, this building type is moving from the margins towards the center of research interest.
This entry tries to understand the intentions of the current users  of the polykatoikia and to what extent they reflect (or not) its gradual abandonment. It records snapshots of inhabitance and ownership whilst attempting to answer the following question: has the Athenian post-war polykatoikia been continuously inhabited despite the gradual move of a significant number of residents away from the center of Athens that was observed in the 1980s and 1990s?
Map 1: Location of the 3 apartment blocks (polykatoikies)
The answers to this question given here are the result of a small-scale research project  in three polykatoikies in the neighbourhoods of Pagrati and Kaisariani and are based on interviews with apartment residents . The three polykatoikies are typical examples of this type of building, produced by a builder-contractor through the flats-for-land system (antiparochi). They differ in size due to the different size and shape of of the plots of land they were built on (Figure 1).
Brief presentation of the 3 apartment blocks polykatoikies
Figure 1: Urban block plot and the 3 apartment blocks polykatoikies
Polykatoikia A: Pagrati | elevated ground floor, 3 normal floors, 2 top floors, 1 roof top cabin | 10 apartments | 9 interviews | completion of construction 1972
Polykatoikia B: Kaisariani | elevated ground floor, 3 normal floors, 2 top floors, roof | 24 apartments | 17 interviews | completion of construction 1973
Polykatoikia C: Kaisariani | elevated ground floor, 4 floors, 1 roof top cabin | 20 apartments | 5 interviews | completion of construction 1974
Categories of users and ways of habitation
Although the size of the apartments varies, the density is very low, with only one four-person household reported and only one two-room apartment with more than two residents (Figure 2). Extreme cases are considered to be the 2 five-room apartments and the 6 four-bedroom apartments with just one or two residents.
Figure 2: Apartment size and number of residents
Homeownership outweighs rentals in a ratio of 20/11. An interesting characteristic emerges in polykatoikia B where 70% of homeownerships have not changed since 1972 (Figure 3). If the apartments owned by the initial landowners —either empty or rented—are also considered, then at least 14 out of 24 apartments have the same owner since 1972. In polykatoikia B, it is also remarkable to notice the concentration of tenants on lower floor apartments, while all residents on higher floor apartments, 3rd or higher, are owner-occupiers.
Figure 3: Homeownership and rent
Regarding the age groups in the three polykatoikies, those over 50 years old and those between 20 and 50 are found in equal numbers (20/18), while children and those under 20 years old are rather scarce—in 4 of the 38 apartments (Figure 4).
Figure 4: Age groups of residents
While the apartments are predominantly used as main residence, a small number of cases, 8 of the 40 apartments (Figure 5), are secondary residences. The age of the residents provide an first explanation. People over 50 occupy 7 out of the 8 secondary residences. 5 of them have been continuously using the apartment since it was built. These features imply the presence of households who bought these apartments in the 1970s as young families. In the meantime the children have grown up and moved out, while the parents remained only partially in these residences. In 4 out of 8 large apartments, this assumption is verified, and also explains the low densities observed in Figure 1. Today, the elderly parents share their presence among their own apartment and an owner-occupied house in the periphery of the Attica region, or their child’s family house, where they usually assist by taking care of their grandchildren.
Figure 5: Main and secondary residence
In terms of marital status, the single residents aged between 20 and 50 constitute the majority (Figure 6). Moreover, there is an equal percentage of the following 3 categories of households: couples with children, couples with children living elsewhere and couples without children.
Among the childless couples, only one is young enough to move potentially to the category of couples with children. Couples with children living elsewhere are couples whose children have grown up in the couple’s apartment, which they will eventually inherit—the case for all 6 couples mentioned earlier. Despite the almost equal presence of the 20-50 and over 50 age groups, the second tends to widen. In 2 households, the adult children still live with their parents, but in the near future, according to the interviews, they will move to a new house with their own family. This will further increase the rate of the over 50 age group. This could be taken as an indication of the gradual ageing of the residents’ population.
Figure 6: Marital status and age groups
In the homeownership and rent diagram related to age groups (Figure 7), the ratio for those over 50 years is 16/3, while for those between 20 and 50 years it is 8/8. It can be assumed that the over 50 years old have managed to own apartments through their work activity or their inherited assets, while the next age group is much more equally divided between homeownership and rent.
Figure 7: Homeownership – rent and age groups
Within a total of 11 apartments, the most populous group of single 20 to 50 years olds is distributed in the ratio of 3/3/5 to homeownership / hosting / rent. Considering hosting as a form of homeownership (since in all our cases the hosted are children of those who own the apartments they live in), the effective ratio for homeownership / rent is 6/5, i.e. almost equal.
In terms of the ways of access to homeownership—regarding the owner-occupiers and the hosts—a distinct category of family planning emerges. This refers to young people who become homeowners through heritage (Figure 8).
Figure 8: Access to homeownership and age groups
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