OPINION

Half measures in construction

Without doubt the whole plan for «tidying up» the mess of illegally closed spaces was dictated by the need for fast cash. It would be a good development if we saw the same «humble» motive leading to changes in other longstanding problems in construction and city planning. At this point we need practical solutions without loopholes, and it is on the basis of this criterion that we need to evaluate the most recent law presented by Public Works and Environment Minister Giorgos Souflias. The vast majority of spaces intended as balconies have been illegally closed off and fines levied only in the very few cases where official complaints were submitted. The widespread violation of a law is unequivocal proof that it has failed and should be changed. As a rule, open areas are closed off by the same people who create them, yet the blame is imputed exclusively to buyers. The legislator who originally drafted the law came down hard on the buyer and let the construction companies get off scot-free, and they naturally went on to do the exact same thing on their next construction. You can bet that they would think twice if they too were held liable. The state was faced with three choices: first, to ignore the problem. The second was to expend a great deal of time and money in order to ensure that every illegally closed space is opened up once more by the threat of extremely high fines. The government chose the third option: accepting the reality of the situation and trying to restore some semblance of order. It could be the right choice if it included assurances that the problem will not be repeated, as was the case with buildings that were illegally constructed outside town limits. Souflias’s measures to curb the illegal closure of open spaces seem to fall short of the mark. Maybe it would be better all around if these spaces were simply incorporated in the building coefficient. Such a measure would undoubtedly close the window of opportunity for exploiting loopholes.