Monday, January 18, 2016

Going to Unticipated politic elections, Albania Intensifies Efforts to Register Illegal Buildings

Albania is stepping up its efforts to issue permits for homes that were built illegally over the past two decades, with some 300,000 buildings still awaiting official authorization.
Albania will launch a new wave of legalization of buildings that were constructed illegally after 2006. 

Fatjona Mejdini

Prime Minister Edi Rama hands out legalisation certificaties for people's houses | Photo: Facebook

The director of the government agency responsible for tackling Albania’s widespread problem of illegally-constructed buildings told BIRN that he hopes that the majority of such ‘informal constructions’ on the outskirts of major urban areas will be legalised by the end of 2017.

But Artan Lame, the director of the Agency for the Legalisation, Urbanisation and Integration of Informal Areas, ALUIZNI, cautioned that much more work would remain inside urban areas.

"Later we are going to continue with the legalisation of buildings inside the cities, which also offers a complex situation," Lame told BIRN.

The legalisation process started 12 years ago, but there are still around 300,000 buildings constructed without permission in the country, mainly houses whose owners are waiting to legalise their properties.

The high number of illegal buildings in the country was largely caused by people from impoverished rural or remote areas, mainly from northern Albania, moving to towns and cities seeking prosperity and building homes without permission, creating ad hoc, ‘informal’ settlements.

These were tolerated by the state as the newcomers were seen as potential political supporters, while weak state structures and the chaotic transition from Communism exacerbated the problem.

Lame said that the process of legalisation should have been a bureaucratic issue, but it became unnecessarily politicised.

"We are trying to pull the process out of politicisation and turn it into a technical issue. We have struggled to restore citizens’ trust in the process, since in the past a lot has been said about the need for it, but little has been done," he said.

Albania adopted its first property legalisation law in 2004, and ever since then, politicians have used the issue as a vote-winner, promising at election time to help people who have been waiting to legalise their homes, while not always delivering in practice.

Some people have been given their legal ownership certificates by political leaders at high-profile ceremonies.

But only 60,000 properties have actually been registered to their owners under the law since the process started.

Besnik Aliaj, an expert on urban issues and a lecturer at Polis University, told BIRN that if the politicians had the will, the process should have been finished.

"In fact, the process has been used politically and unnecessarily delayed. You can distinguish this very easily at the point when the country’s prime ministers go and distribute the legalisation certificates to the people themselves," he said.

Aliaj also said that the process should consist of more than delivering a certificate to a building’s owner - it should also involve the provision of services to marginal settlements that will allow them to be sustainable as urban neighbourhoods.

"The process of urbanisation should start immediately in the areas waiting to be legalised," he said.

"When you create schools, social centres and services, you really include these people in a formal system, otherwise house legalisation is just useless," he added.
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