Illegal homes bill faces fresh doubts

Civil engineers Monday became the latest group to express opposition to the government?s controversial plan to spare illegal buildings from demolition as long as their owners pay a hefty penalty.

Environmentalists have already dismissed the plan, which was unveiled last month, as a revenue-raising measure. Civil engineers adopted a similar line, arguing that it was wrong of the government to rule out knocking down buildings that have been erected in forests, dried-up riverbeds and on the coast.

?Yet again, illegal properties are being used to collect money,? the Civil Engineers? Association (SPME) said in a statement.

The organization also accused the government of taking a big risk by not requiring the illegal buildings to undergo structural safety tests before they receive final approval. The government has said that its would-be law requires only a visual check to be conducted on the structures.

?It is unscientific and dangerous at a time when techniques to evaluate the adequacy of buildings have advanced greatly,? said SPME.

The bill allows owners of properties that have either not been built according to the legal requirements or which have not been constructed with a permit, even those currently involved in legal disputes with the state, to pay a fine to protect their homes from demolition for 40 years.

Homeowners will have to pay between 500 and 2,000 euros when they submit their applications. The fines will be calculated based on the type of offense and the size of the property.

The General Confederation of Greek Small Businesses and Traders (GSEVEE) yesterday asked for its members to receive a 30 percent discount on the fines.