Backgrounds of Illegal Construction on Urban Land in Georgia

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1 Backgrounds of Illegal Construction on Urban Land in Georgia 1 Natia Jokhadze Urban-planner Deputy Director of Georgian National Science Foundation Preamble It is known, that the main characteristic of urban culture is harmony, order and logics of physical and social environment. The level of economic development of country is mostly exposed in cities, where social constitution is defining physical living structure. As Georgia counts very few years of its independence since break of Soviet Union, it needs brief look on nearest past to see the current picture of urban development. Urban development, as a sphere of social science was one of those few with very high ideological approach in Soviet Georgia (as in whole Soviet Union). Urban development was instrument for spreading ideology on the territories of country and thus was controlled from high level authorities. Even more as a separate discipline it was totally ignored in higher education system. Soviet kind of territorial development was planned from above and was very far from reality results are obvious soviet urban products: bed-room districts, mass housing (so called khrushovka ) created problems even during soviet era. Even soviet urban system was considered by experts as outdated and not-realistic, formally it worked. There were huge state institutions working on planning and construction and as a result every centimeter of land had its status and plan for development. Situation was radically changed after Georgia independence in early 90-ies of last century. In a very short period country of planned economy transformed into the country of market economy with its totally new realities which were met with not thought and unbalanced local conditions. On the arena came new subjects of urban development owners, developers, private companies who were not oriented where, how and when implement construction activities. As a result today cities of Georgia expose all the mistakes of historical processes of urban development and construction activities. Although new government, coming after Rose Revolution tries to regulate somehow all the illegalities of previous years, problem is rather complex and needs systematic approach.

2 2 1. What are the reasons for illegal constructions? It can be said, that the sector of construction became more active last three years. The main reason for this is the approach of new government, in comparison with previous, to invest in construction more state and/or non-budgetary money. Indeed, construction activities performed only by private sector in previous years, today more and more involve state and municipalities. New public constructions (roads, airports, squares, schools and other) are appearing every day and creating more job places. Although construction activity in the country is so obvious, still the problems of already existed illegal constructions are preventing the development of urban territories. Change of formation in the country in early 90-ies laid background for the re-distribution of property. First step re-distribution first generation privatization (from state to owners) of state land and property carried out in a very chaotic period and was totally based on personal interests of individual state and municipality authorities. Process completely lacked transparency and openness. This situation was promoted with unclear legislation, weak public control mechanisms and outdated urban planning documentation. During second generation privatization processes of property distribution remained still uncontrolled. The main wealth of country urban land became arena to gain money to many actors without rules of play. Complexity of many factors, decisions and activities created absolutely free environment for illegal constructions in cities Legislation and Institutional Framework Legislation in construction was too weak to prevent illegal construction activities. Since several laws and normative acts were adopted to regulate construction sector, very few part of them were followed and executed in reality. While some of normative acts were adopted without thoughtful evaluation of situation and perspectives, others were created consciously, to create bureaucratic (and thus, corruption) conditions for construction. As an example of first is the law on Mass Privatization, adopted in 1992, which gave possibility to all the inhabitants to become owners, but without proper and clear vision of their responsibilities. Law was adopted and implemented in a period of civil war within the country, without supporting documents (i.e. what is allowed for owners, what is regulated, whether they can build, re-build or

3 3 develop and etc). As a result about 90% of urban population became owners of flats, with no restriction on construction and re-construction of their properties. Private capital, egoistic as everywhere, was not balanced with state and public interests and every owner began to create living environment by his own. On the other hand several other normative acts forced bureaucratic participation in every step of construction process. For example Civil Code of Georgia item 208 states:... individual property should be only on isolated flats and other isolated parts of building. Places for parking should be count as isolated if their borders are shaped after using for certain period. One of interpretation of this text could be: person could shape borders everywhere (pay bribes for local authorities) for certain (?) period and after could become owner of territory. This part of law was followed by almost every owner of car and within the cities appeared garage settlements (pictures 1,2). pictures 1,2. Private Garages in the public yard of multi-flat houses. Besides mentioned law, several other normative acts contributed to the illegal construction activities. In 1989 government of Georgia adopted decree on extension of existed housing by additional construction. According to this active constructional works began to expand existing multi-flat houses. Of course it can be imagined that constructional activities were carried out according to total ignorance of architectural-construction and technical norms. In 1992 Government tried to stop this process and smooth mistakes of this normative act, by adopting new decree, but it did not worked phenomena of additional constructions was very active for many years, becoming less and less legal. (pictures 3, 4,5)

4 4 pictures 3,4,5. Extensions of existing multi-family houses. besides weak normative bases, problems created in law execution. According to legislation, it was forbidden to build on recreational areas, squares, parks, pedestrians, but the fact is that most of these areas were day by day covered with illegal constructions. For example in one of largest park of Tbilisi, high-rise dwelling house is built up (illegally) and sold with very high prices for one square meter. Even more there are certain territories in the very center of Capital city, where illegal dwelling constructions are built up as a whole district prices of flats are very high and affordable only for very few percent of population. Last 3 years are characterized with very active and radical changes in all spheres of state life. This concerns also to normative background for urban development and construction. Law on Space Arrangement adopted in 2005 tried to organize urban development processes. On the other hand, cities of Georgia still have outdated, soviet period master-plans. In 2004 Ministry of Infrastructure and Development announced open competition on elaboration of city-planning documentation zoning schemes for six cities of Georgia. All of them are finished but not adopted yet (!). The Last Master Plan of the Capital city Tbilisi was adopted in 1972 and formally is still in force.

5 5 It can be said that today the state participation in regulation of construction sector became less active. On one hand this approach reduces so spread in Georgian practice - corruption and nepotism indeed on lower and middle administrative levels there is no corruption, but on the other hand, private capital still remains unregulated. Even there are fewer amounts of illegal new constructions (because of punishing mechanisms), the problem turns to quality of urban-planning and construction itself. For example according to the Law on Licenses and Permits (2005), licenses for architecturalconstructional activities are abolished. Construction inspection from state also changed if in previous years it was one of most corrupted institution, today, corruption reduced but quality of control of construction process, technical components and materials remains the same. The new and very important initiative Construction Code was elaborated in and will be adopted very soon. This normative act defines all the aspects of construction and is supposed to help development of construction sector in Georgia. Institutional framework of construction reflects state ideology to minimize participation and regulation. Thus amount and scale of institutions working on urban development and construction were minimized as well. Today on state level construction is coordinated by the Ministry of Economic Development Department of Urbanization and Construction with about 12 staff members. Ministry itself unites several sectors and thus can not be fully oriented on urban development and construction. According to the Law on Local Government and Self-government all activities from urban development plans to local construction became the functions and responsibilities of Local Governments. Since poor local budgets prevail in the country, local authorities prefer to finance rather obvious social issues, than to develop urban planning documentation. It has to be mentioned, that international organizations are not active in the sector of urban development and construction. Only few involvements can be found during the all post-soviet period. One of very important project: Country Profiles on the Housing Sector, carried out by UNECE, begun in 2006, now is finalizing and will be officially available very soon Social and Economic Conditions Huge part in flourishing of illegal construction activity took the poor social and economic conditions of the country. Poor socio-economic conditions together with very bureaucratic system activated corruption: Bribes as a norm on all the levels, beginning from licensing and permits till

6 6 architectural-construction inspection, were used to carry out illegal construction activities. If somebody decided not to pay bribes he will never receive official document/permit to perform constructional activity. One the one hand every document should be bought, on the other hand even officially legal documents were not followed during the construction process. For those who were not granted with legal permit still was possible to construct illegally, giving bribes to other institutions and authorities. Corruption as a main factor for illegal construction was life norm before Low salaries of state officials, responsible for construction (for example the monthly salary of the minister was about 100 USD) 1, and weak and corrupted control mechanisms formed ideal environment for illegal buildings and even illegal settlements in certain cities of country. It is very interesting that illegal is not always associated with poor, not-prestigious or low-quality, moreover, building can be illegal and at the same time can be located on very central and prestigious district, with high-quality performed construction and very expensive prices Illegal construction in figures Process of illegal construction can be described with several steps: 1. Privatization of state land/property results: privatization of state, public land, recreational zones, infrastructural lands, loses in state budget, prevention of urban development; 2. Licenses and Permits results: corruption, illegal constructional activities, prevention of economic development, loses in state budget; 3. Construction process results: ignoring rules of construction permits to gain more square meters, reducing quality of materials, ignoring construction documentation, creating ugly and unsafe physical environment; 4. Inspection results: corruption to hide all the illegalities, loses in state-municipal budget, lowquality construction materials and buildings. For example according to the data of the Main Architectural-Construction Inspection (2004), among 277 inspected objects 34% were illegal. From this figure 58,5% were without architecturalconstruction project (design) and 29,5% - without construction permit. It is very interesting that 1 for example, according to the State Department of Statistics the living minimum per person was 115 GEL (about 60 USD) per month in 2003 while the average salary of civil servant was 50 GEL (about 28 USD)

7 7 according to this data 47 illegal buildings were decided to destroy and were passed to the court there is no one court decision on future of these buildings. It is very interesting to look at the data of State Architectural-construction Inspection, summarizing the information on Table 1. Data on activity of Main State Architectural-Construction Inspection in Activity amount of construction amount of construction permits amount of inspected constructions amount of revealed disorders /illegalities Very interesting are the results of sociological investigation held in 2004 for the research project: Corruption in Illegal Construction in Urban Territories (Tbilisi case study) 3. On the question: have you had any kind of corruption relations with public servants to perform construction?, 56,7% of respondents answered yes, almost in all architectural-construction activities, and only 15,5% answered no, never. On the question: What is most preventing problem in architectural-construction activities, answers arranged as follows: chart 1 2 It was symptomatic, that not all the regions presented the full data to main structure in N. Jokhadze, Corruption in Illegal Construction in Urban Territories Tbilisi case study, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center, 2004

8 8 receive of construction permit 47,5 agreement of architectural project 32,4 relations with inspection 25,1 other 2, Recommendations Problem of illegal construction is so obvious that a first action of new government was to solve them by any means. In 2004 moratorium on construction activities was adopted in central and prestigious district of Tbilisi. The second important action was reducing the level of corruption in state organizations. Nevertheless problem is rather complex and of course needs more time and recourses to be solved. Approach should be systematic, otherwise all the efforts will change conditions of certain cases and not total situation. Core reform of system should be implemented: Legislation package (laws, norms, indicators) should be elaborated; Institutional rehabilitation of urban development and construction sector; Development and implementation of modern urban planning documentation for all the cities of country; Implement reforms in monitoring-controlling sector, raising finances, divide competences; Strengthen the court system, executive system;

9 Carry out Information policy in architectural-constructional sector; 9 Development the methodology of statistics, classifications, indicators; Strengthen the control of construction materials, imports, industry, certification and standardization systems; Develop the modern approach of terms, means, definition dictionary; Develop professional education system in construction; Force public participation and monitoring of all construction activities on public territories. Core reforms in architectural-constructional sector will give the country the possibility to avoid all the negative results illegal construction. Active involvement of state in construction sector will lay basis for economic development, safe and comfortable environment and quality of life.

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