Municipality of Tirana Becomes Real Estate Dealer

It seems the Tirana Municipality has decided to become a real estate dealership, allowing itself to enter negotiations with private developers regarding the public land it owns in the name of the Albanian citizens.

A draft decision sent today for approval by Mayor Erion Veliaj to the Municipal Council, “Defining the procedure and negotiations with private developers that show interest in cooperating with the Tirana municipality, via agreement of entrepreneurship/exchange for property under its ownership,” grants the municipality the right to sign development agreements with private construction companies as if it were a private entity.

It is important to note that the draft decision is entirely illegal and is not based on any existing law. On the contrary, it violates several laws concerning public property and public procurement.

It seems the draft decision has been drawn up in order to justify the clientelist and corrupt affair of the new National Theater building, involving public land that will be given to a private developer in exchange for the construction of the building. Prime Minister Edi Rama initially declared that this would be done via a special law, since the existing ones do not allow for this kind of transference. It seems he has now decided to forego not only the legal option, but the public transparency that would come with a law reviewed and passed by the Parliament as well, by undertaking an illegal initiative to form the basis of the argument for the privatization of public property. Bjarke Ingels Group, the architecture company involved in the project, has silently approved of these abusive tactics.

Additionally, this decision paves the way for massive privatization of Tirana’s public property by construction companies, via corrupt and clientelist contracts and mechanisms, basically transforming the Tirana Municipality into a state-sponsored real estate agency.

According to the draft decision, any construction company that has been contracted by a private party for a development on private land may request the municipality permission to develop on the public land bordering to the private one. Furthermore, even if the public land is not owned by the municipality, but by another public entity, the municipality has the right to request ownership of the land be transferred to it, in order then to transfer it to the private entity.

The draft decision states that the municipality will make decisions on a case-by-case basis, rather than based on laws and regulations, and may either sell the land or exchange it for another property, for example residential or commercial space in one of the buildings constructed by the private company. This is a tactic that was already announced in the Tirana 2030 masterplan.

Concretely, the Tirana municipality may enter agreements with private entities that are developing or will develop on private properties that border on public ones. Reviewing each case, the municipality will appraise exchanging or other similar transactions with public property, keeping in mind public interests and the property’s financial value:

The Tirana municipality owns property whose condition, as result of time, has degraded, making them not only useless for public interests, but even dangerous to citizens.

Even though the Tirana municipality has a large budget, it also faces the high costs of social welfare programs for homeless families.

Regarding negotiations with the private companies, the draft notes that:

The construction company must have signed a contract with the owners of the private property and must express its interest to also develop in public-owned areas. In the contract, the construction company will grant the municipality construction space of the same value.

This decision is valid for any public land owned by the municipality and any public land whose ownership was transferred to the municipality.

Applications will be reviewed by the negotiations committee that will be formed by order of the Mayor, and will constitute of 5 members: 2 members from the legal department, 1 member from the financial services department, and 2 members from the development and city planning department.

In all cases, the municipality will receive no less than 35% of the construction, and if a building is constructed, the municipality will receive no less than 50%.