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02 July, 2022
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The eternal unfinished buildings in our cities

Some pose a risk to public health and safety

Andreas Andreou

Andreas Andreou

Driving in some areas of Cyprus, we can see some skeletal buildings that "stand" there abandoned for many years and it makes us wonder why they were left there to rot. Of course, abandonment is perhaps their only common feature since each building carries its own history or most likely part of the history of its last or penultimate owner.

A common story of abandonment is when an entrepreneur developer falls into bankruptcy resulting in the incompletion of the building/renovation project. Bankruptcy can lead to restructuring with a financial institution which in turn either offers it for sale or holds it back for future sale when market conditions may be more favorable. If the person is already offering it for sale and it remains unsold for an extended period of time, then probably the appraisal of its value is wrong (high) in relation to the physical condition and the real possibilities of the property.

That is why the state should implement combined measures to encourage reconstruction and discourage inaction so that these cases disappear.

A less common story of abandonment is the fear that if the building is demolished then the (higher) building rate of the old - abandoned building will not be secured by the new development. How realistic is this fear?

The answer is "very realistic". You see, it is a common phenomenon over time that urban zones have been imposed or revised in such a way that the permitted building factor has been reduced compared to the past. This is particularly "striking" in the coastal areas of cities where before the implementation of Local Plans and tourist zones, development was more anarchic and with a higher building rate. The most methodical and guided development imposed by the Local Plans or the urban zones in general, reduced both the building factors and the allowed number of floors.

Therefore an old high-rise building, for example, of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s cannot be reproduced today if demolished. So the owner keeps it with… "nails and teeth" bass and manages to give it new life with the old specifications.

This obsession, of course, only has to do with some growth factor data, such as the building factor and the number of floors. Everything else has no real value. For example, the owner can not seriously claim that such a building is earthquake-proof because it was designed and built then. The conditions of design and construction were different then when the stress of only decades makes it unprotected today.

Such a building can receive an anti-seismic upgrade, it just requires a lot of money.

If the (theoretical) value of the building factor of the existing building is added to this, the solution as an investment option can be economically unprofitable, as a result it remains unclaimed/unsold. But the owner is usually in denial (fighting with the truth) and waiting.

The point, however, is that such buildings pose a risk to public safety and health, as there is no absolute way to insure them against illegal visitors, they are a source of rodents and other impurities, and we can not underestimate that their simple exposure to weather and their non-maintenance accelerates the negative alteration of their characteristics making them dilapidated.

These cases that are really dangerous today are not too many, but they are striking. But as long as things are left clean in the hands of the owners, the number of cases can increase. Although some decisions and measures have been taken from time to time, the results are not entirely satisfactory.

That is why the state should implement combined measures to encourage reconstruction and discourage inaction so that these cases disappear. For example, a regular deadline could be given within which the old building factor would apply if the project was redesigned and licensed, setting an additional regular horizon for the completion of the new project. If the first deadline expires, the right is lost, while if the project is between the first and second deadline, a high fine is imposed on the owner. Cases that are more complicated in terms of property could even be expropriated by the state. Until then, all of you - regardless of province - I'm sure you have at least one case in mind as you read this article.

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