Death of family in Italian floods shines a light on illegal builds
By Lorenzo Tondo
Men, women and children have lost their lives trapped in houses built without proper authorisation, thrown together in areas of high seismic risk, a few steps from rivers or at the foot of hills at hydrogeological risk. According to data from the Italian Territorial Agency, 1.2m homes in Italy are illegal. The Italian National Institute of Statistics (Istat) said that in 2015 alone nearly 20 illegal buildings were put up for every 100 authorised ones.
“We have built and continue to build in areas where we shouldn’t ever have,” Maurizio Carta, a professor of city planning at the University of Palermo, told the Guardian. “We have erected villas and buildings in fragile areas, along riverbeds, in areas prone to landslides, along cliffs, and in high-risk hydrogeological and seismic areas, which increases the risk for people living there – in essence, where they should not be living in the first place.”
Instead of ordering the demolition of houses, Italian politicians have often adopted regulations that save engineers and owners from convictions, enriching the state at the same time – a process called condono edilizio, which translates as “amnesty building”.
The process is that the owners of an illegal building have the opportunity to save their home from demolition by paying a sum of €60-€150 (£53-£131) per square metre of their house. In return, the state abandons criminal prosecution.