Draft bill envisions 'right-of-use' extending into decades for owners of illegally built structures in forest zones

Friday, 07 December 2018 12:12
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The latest draft amendment with a distinct "aura" of pending elections in 2019 was tabled in Parliament this week, essentially giving the owners of illegally built structures in "settlements" within forest areas a "right-to-use" option for the property of up to 40 years, but without the capacity of transfer.

The draft amendment, which will be the subject of public debate until Jan. 8, 2019, is accompanied by fines and a stamp duty (above 200 euros).

One of the modern Greek state's scourges is the hundreds of thousands of illegally built structures in areas outside town planning zones, often in haphazardly sprung up "settlements" that over the past decades were hooked up to utilities, and in many cases, legalized through various remedy laws. Such structures range from humble rural cottages, to high-end holiday homes, often built right on the coastline. Often, owners build without proper licenses from central state and local government authorities, while building on squatted state land is not unheard of.

Conversely, many areas currently designated as "forest areas" by state services in Greece have nary a tree on them, with the designation ascribed decades or even a century ago, and based on bureaucratic registration. Changing a tract of land from the designation of "forested" to something else is among the most time-consuming and "red-tape" processes in Greece's public administration.

The absence of a unified, functional and digitalized land registry (cadastre) along with the expansion of town planning zones at a snail's pace, and up until recently, sparse real estate development by the private sector fueled this situation.

The designation of a "settlement" in the draft law will be left to the National Cadastre Organization, whereby the latter will inspect "residential concentrations", ones pointed out by municipalities, when designating new forest maps. Upon inspection, the cadastre organization's engineers and surveyors will, ostensibly, ascertain if the "residential concentrations" fulfill criteria in the draft law for the favorable treatment of owners with buildings inside the settlement.

One criteria listed refers to at least 50 buildings within an area of 2.5 hectares; 100 in 10 hectares and 200 hectares in 40 hectares.

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