NEWS

Fines, not demolition, for illegal homes

Five days after taking over from Tina Birbili at the Environment Ministry, former Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou has prepared plans to allow owners of illegal homes to pay a fine to protect their home from demolition, a scheme that his predecessor had vehemently opposed.

Kathimerini has seen Papaconstantinou?s blueprint for giving illegally built homes something just short of legal status. Homeowners who pay the fines, the size of which has yet to be set, would protect their properties from the threat of demolition for between 30 and 40 years. The regulations will vary slightly depending on whether the home has been built without a permit or if it has failed to comply with town-planning rules, or both.

The scheme is very similar to the one introduced by the government last year, which allowed homeowners to declare illegally altered parts of their properties, know in Greece as ?imiypaithrioi,? to prevent them from penalties for the next 40 years.

In both cases, the government had considered schemes to allow the homes to be made totally legal but the Greek Constitution does not permit it. The imiypaithrioi scheme proved a significant revenue earner for the government but Birbili had opposed the same principle being applied to illegal properties, many of which have been built in wooded areas or forests. Birbili had insisted that those who broke the law so flagrantly should not be let off.

However, the government?s desperate need for revenues — which Papaconstantinou knows full well since he was in charge of fiscal policy until last Friday — means that the Environment Ministry will now proceed with the scheme, which has been debated by Greek governments since the early 1980s.

It is not yet clear how much homeowners will be asked to pay to protect their properties from further penalties or demolition, but it is likely that the time frame they will be given to submit their paperwork will be six to eight months.