Programmes in several countries allow young families, vulnerable citizens to buy.
By Goran Trajkov for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 08/02/13
Macedonia Finance Minister Zoran Stavrevski presents last year's launch of the Buy a House, Buy a Flat programme. [Tomislav Georgiev/SETimes]
Countries across the Balkans are offering subsidised loan programmes to assist citizens who might not otherwise be able to buy housing, in an effort to boost home ownership amid a struggling economy.
Macedonia's Buy a House, Buy a Flat programme recently completed its first year after granting 640,000 euros in subsidised housing loans to 110 buyers. Ivana Bilbilovska, finance ministry spokesperson, told SETimes that the programme requires a maximum monthly income of 900 euros and that borrowers not own other properties.
The application deadline for the next round of loans is May 31st.
New homeowner Aleksandra Manoleva told SETimes she never could have dreamed of purchasing a home without the Buy a House, Buy a Flat programme.
"I'm really happy for this opportunity because finally we, as a family, have our own home and can achieve our unique lifetime wish," Manoleva said.
Macedonian Finance Minister Zoran Stavrevski this week announced that the government is increasing the subsidy for participants in the programme. The state will provide 75 percent of monthly installment payments, up from 50 percent.
In Romania, the government launched the First House programme in 2009, hoping to create construction sector jobs and improve access to mortgage loans. Guarantees range from 60,000 to 75,000 euros.
So far, the state has offered more than 3 billion euros in financial guarantees to more than 81,000 families, and there are about 385 million euros available in 2013.
"The programme came to compensate the economic hardships we went through," Alexandra Sofronie, a 32-year-old accountant from Bucharest who bought a two-room flat, told SETimes.
"It did help us at a time when no bank would look at you due to lowered incomes. It was high time the government acted in support of young families, especially amid the increase of economic migration."
In Serbia, the government plans to construct 2,000 apartments in Belgrade for workers involved in public enterprises, young married couples and the disabled. Another programme has made 176 apartments in Belgrade available to vulnerable families.
Applicants must have a "total family income that does not exceed 80 percent of the average wage in the republic, and at least two years of living in Belgrade," Zoran Kostic, city housing commission president, told SETimes.
The Croatian government built 750 flats in Zagreb and Split targeted for vulnerable residents. A list of those who received the flats will be available on March 15th.
Croatia has taken the additional step of buying empty apartments and offering them to citizens "under favorable conditions," Anka Mrak Taritas, minister of construction and environmental planning, told SETimes.
"According to some estimates there are around 20,000 empty flats in Croatia. … Young families with several children will have an advantage in buying," Taritas said, adding that the government hopes reducing the number of empty apartments will encourage the domestic construction business.
According to the ministry's calculations, the monthly payment on a 30-year government loan for a 60-square metre apartment is 261 euros, a savings of 55 euros compared to commercial loans. Participants in the programme will save 10,000 to 15,000 euros over the life of the loan.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republika Srpska government has subsidised interest rates. Couples under age 35, who both have university degrees can receive 20-year loans up to 50,000 euros at 4.3 percent interest. Zoran Popovic, RS Investment and Development Bank spokesperson, said more than 1,000 of the loans have been awarded since the programme started in 2008.
SETimes correspondents Mladen Dragojlovic in Banja Luka, Paul Ciocoiu in Bucharest, Drazen Remikovic in Zagreb and Biljana Pekusic in Belgrade contributed to this report.