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The Italian housing market went through its worst slump in 28 years in 2012, with 150,000 fewer transactions than in 2011.

The paradox, notes the Corriere della Sera, is that “while houses are now worth less, buying them costs more,” as crisis-hit banks provide fewer loans and sellers ask for more money.

Italians are above the EU average in terms of the proportion who own their primary home.

Rising unemployment suggests the housing crisis will not end soon. On May 14, a man set himself alight in protest at the fact his house was being auctioned because he was unable to repay a €10,000 debt.