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Opinion / Venetia Rainey

Neighbourhood watch

What makes a city? Infrastructure, housing, public spaces? They’re all important. But the glue that binds a city is its people, from Ferrari drivers to street cleaners, immigrants to old-timers. These are the folks who sit in cafés, play in parks and shop in stores – they make a city feel alive. Yet in many places, this is under threat. Rampant house and rental price rises mean bona fide residents are being pushed out by tourists, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them overseas students or, worst of all, no one.As you’ll see in our story below, Amsterdam is legislating to ensure anyone buying a new-build is actually going to live in it. Good. The housing market in the Dutch capital has become impossible as landlords snap up properties and capitalise on the influx of foreigners to charge ludicrous sums. Amsterdam also has one of the strictest rules on Airbnb rentals – now allowed for just 30 days a year per property.Other cities should take note. Greece, for example, has offered about 10,000 golden visas (property investment in return for residency) to those from China, Russia and elsewhere since 2013, according to Enterprise Greece. That’s injected about €1.5bn into Greek real estate but it’s also making Athens unaffordable for austerity-squeezed locals – and investors don’t even have to live there to qualify. Beirut’s centre is a warning too: inflated prices have turned parts of it into a ghost town owned by absent foreigners. There are some things that money just can’t buy.

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