CNN Photos

Dreams of new homes abandoned in Greece

While traveling in Greece, Dutch photographer Patrick van Dam noticed unfinished buildings and homes spotting the countryside. They looked spectacular, he said, but they didn’t look like they’d be finished anytime soon.

Plants were creeping in on the structure sides. Stray dogs and squatters, not the owners, were calling them “home.”

He had seen the photographs of people in despair due to the financial crisis in Greece, but he hadn’t seen this kind of structural beauty that had been born in the country’s troubles.

“We have a big tragedy, a crisis, and still I can see the beauty of it in these unfinished houses,” he said.

With the Greek economy in a long and painful lull, hopeful homeowners have had to abandon their dreams and watch time wear down the frameworks of their future homes.

Landowners had borrowed money and had a mortgage to start building. Then the banks dried up and weren’t able to give them the money they had promised.

One man van Dam spoke to had put his life savings into a small hotel and two apartment buildings (Image 6). He can see the construction from the window of his house further up the hill, van Dam said.

“Here I am, looking at my shattered dreams every day,” he told van Dam.

The photographer would ask people living nearby about the buildings. They had seen these structures sit without change for years, and they thought it was odd that he was photographing them.

Sometimes, the people weren’t willing to help. He said they viewed him as a “ramptoerist,” Dutch for “disaster tourist.”

The owners of the abandoned homes were warm toward him – they welcomed him in to have tea and listen to their rants about the government. They had seen a stale economy halt the construction of their homes, and they didn’t see change coming.

They expected it to get worse.

Since the European Union’s finances entered the crisis mode, Greece has consistently been one of the worst off countries with a full-on depression.

Greece currently has an unemployment rate of 21%. It has been cutting payments and increasing taxes, and it’s still required by European rules to cut another 4.7% of gross domestic product from its budget.

Even if it achieves those goals, or rather because it will enact such draconian cuts, the Greek economy is expected to sink deeper.

“As long as the crisis is there, I’m sure they’ll just be abandoned like this,” van Dam said about the structures he photographed.

Most of the buildings were for sale and had been for a long time.

While the economy is struggling, van Dam said foreigners with cash shopping for a vacation home would be the only possible buyers.

- Lauren Russell, CNN