New fines on converted open spaces
Athens News, 9 April 2010

Following the abolition of a similar law passed by New Democracy last year, a cabinet meeting on April 7 approved a new bill on so-called imyipaithroi (semi-open spaces), or illegally built-in areas of homes originally planned as balconies, garages, basements or terraces. This time, however, Envirornment Minister Tina Birbili’s proposed legislation is not offering transgressors a chance to legitimise the extra roomspace in return for a one-off tax levy as the previous law had done.

Instead, the new bill is cast in the mould of environmental regulation, replacing the taxes with environmental fines ranging from 5 percent to 23 percent of the illegally converted area, depending on its size, location, objective value and whether the house is the owner’s main residence or a capital asset earning rent.

Birbili said that in return for paying a penalty, the homeowners will be granted special permits allowing them to continue using the converted spaces for the next 40 years without the threat of demolition or further penalties.

Another environment-friendly innovation of the new bill is the proposed establishment of a "green fund" within the ministry where the revenue from the fines on converted spaces will be channeled. The money from the fund would then be transferred to the municipalities where the homes are located for the creation of green areas, including new parks or refurbished abandoned buildings.

Birbili warned that the ministry would hire private inspectors who, together with town-planning officers, would be authorised to check on illegally converted buildings and impose additional fines on those who won’t declare them after the legislation comes into force.