NEWS

Call for dialogue on illegally built homes

Environment Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou said on Wednesday that he was open to proposals on a government blueprint that aims to raise much-needed funding for state coffers by granting temporary legitimacy to thousands of illegally constructed homes.

A day before the bill?s scheduled submission in Parliament, Papaconstantinou said he was open to dialogue as regards certain criteria, such as the level of fines offenders should pay, but stressed that some properties would be automatically excluded from the scheme.

?It will not apply to properties that have been built on forestland, on beaches and on archaeological sites,? the minister told Parliament.

But many MPs expressed doubts about the project?s enforceability.

?How will we monitor what is declared?? remarked Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a prominent cadre in the main conservative opposition New Democracy party who heads Parliament?s environmental affairs committee. Katerina Farmaki, a PASOK deputy for Corinth, struck a similar tone, saying: ?Are we just going to legalize everything? We have to set up a framework.?

Under Papaconstantinou?s blueprint, 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 20 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. Properties located within the town plan will be legitimized for 40 years and those outside for 20 years.

The scheme is similar to one introduced last year, which allowed homeowners to declare illegally altered parts of their properties, known as ?imiypaithrioi,? in exchange for a fee, to protect them from penalties for 40 years. The deadline for applications by homeowners has been extended until the end of the year. Already more than 600,000 applications have been submitted, raising over 300 million euros.