Athens to demolish crumbling buildings; Red tape, costs put off owners

The Athens city council is getting ready to demolish 45 crumbling buildings, many of which are in areas close to the Acropolis, that have been abandoned by the owners for decades and pose a threat to public safety.

There are an estimated 1,400 such buildings in central Athens, many of which are listed, that have long been abandoned due to high maintenance costs and massive amounts of red tape needed to complete the procedure. Experts estimate that getting a permit to improve a listed building in Greece takes six years and involves tens of public services.

The Athens municipality has started procedures to knock over 15 buildings and is getting ready to launch a tender to demolish another 30 crumbling structures. It has been two years since the municipality took action on this front, says a council official.

Knocking them over helps reduce the threat to public safety but at the same time destroys a part of the city's heritage. These homes provide a view into the city's past, feature architecture that has long since eclipsed and visual relief from a concrete-heavy landscape.

In a bid to help preserve these listed assets, building owners group POMIDA has proposed a ten-year plan with national and EU funds budgeted at 100 million euros per year.

Despite the problems becoming more pressing in recent years with buildings regularly crumbling from Greece's common earthquakes, governments in recent years have failed to tackle the issue due to the cost involved.

This article was initially published on on October 21, 2019.