Tweak for building laws

An attempt to remedy a persistent flouting of the law in the construction of homes, which will also raise an estimated 2 billion euros for public coffers, was unveiled by the government yesterday but experts have questioned whether it will be enforceable. Public Works and Environment Minister Giorgos Souflias said that the government intends to pass a law that will allow homeowners to pay a fee to ensure that areas of their homes which were originally planned as balconies but have since been turned into closed rooms will not be subject to further penalties. Homeowners will be asked to pay 10 percent of the official value of the surface area as set by the tax office in order to obtain documents which stop short of legalizing these spaces but mean that they are unlikely to be demolished. «Citizens will receive a document from the town-planning office confirming that they have paid the amount due and that the space can continue to be used for the same purpose as before,» said Souflias. «This piece of paper will not state that the space is exempt from demolition because that would mean legalization.» More than 1 million households are thought to have these so-called ‘semi-open’ areas. These are essentially covered balconies that have walls on three sides but are open on the fourth. It is estimated that some 1.5 million of these spaces have been closed off and turned into rooms proper due to gaps in building regulations. The amount that homeowners would pay under the proposed regulations would depend on the official value set by the tax office. In a district where the official value of each square meter is 1,500 euros, a 15-square-meter semi-open space would cost 2,250 euros. Souflias acknowledged that the measure would generate some 2 billion euros in extra revenue. However, there are doubts about whether the law will be passed. «Looking at the new regulations, one has serious reservations about whether they are in line with the constitution,» said Constantinos Gogos, a law professor at Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University.