Greek programme to tackle energy poverty should be directed to households with bigger needs for energy upgrades

by Stratos I. Paradias, Lawyer, President of The International Union of Property Owners (UIPI) and Hellenic Property Federation (POMIDA). 

The European Commission (EC) is inviting Member States to invest their subsidies to tackle the dangerously growing phenomenon of energy poverty, which is hitting poor households all over the continent. In Greece, the “Energy Savings and Automation for Smart Homes” programme is the only substantial State help to property owners in the long path of upgrading their buildings’ energy performance.  

This grant works on a first-come, first-served basis. Today in Greece the poorest households are being housed in old rented dwellings in the most degraded areas of the country, which shows that the subsidy should not be directed to those who come first, but to where the greatest need for energy upgrade lies, this is, where the greatest poverty is found and manifested through energy poverty. 

In these households with no insulation, the cost for heating is unbearable and their inhabitants are the first and continuous victims of energy poverty. But these dwellings belong mainly to landlords who are in a similar economic and social situation and that, due to the high annual property tax (ENFIA) and Covid-19 compulsory rent reductions, have few possibilities to finance the necessary energy upgrades of their rented houses. In addition, they are threatened by their complete devaluation in the near future, if they don’t fulfil the energy requirements. 

The Greek Ministry of Environment is preparing the introduction of some criteria to choose whom to subsidise with these grants. To tackle the problem in an effective and fast way, the principle could be to focus the renovation first on old houses belonging to economically weak landlords, which are the main residence for financially vulnerable tenants. This decision would also benefit the State, given that if these tenants live in well insulated dwellings, they would not need the annual heating allowance anymore.