From: Alice Taylor
Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj Says Property Price Increases are due to Embassies and Rich Foreigners

Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj has stated that the prices of apartments in Tirana have increased significantly because they are being bought by ambassadors, foreigners from the ‘Gulf countries’ and the ‘American Investment Foundation’.

Invited to the show Opinion, on Thursday evening, Veliaj was asked by the journalist Blendi Fevziu that ‘who is buying the apartments in Tirana at a cost of 4-5 thousand euros per square meter?’

In an attempt to justify the increase in the price of apartments, Veliaj stated:

“Those who buy are embassies, foreigners, from the [Persian] Gulf countries.

We take the tower in front of the Orthodox Church, it was bought by a Swiss firm.

A large part of the Stadium has been purchased or acquired by the American Investment Foundation, where we will have our own IT or coding courses. ”

By Persian Gulf countries, Veliaj meant foreigners from Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. While with the ‘American Investment Foundation’ Veliaj meant ‘Albanian-American Development Foundation’ (AADF), the same foundation that is helping the municipality in the reconstruction of the Pyramid of Tirana.

According to Veliaj, expensive apartments in the centre of Tirana are being bought by companies such as call centres, Teleperformance, ‘who love [the office] in the centre of Tirana and are willing to pay.’

As for the Albanians, he said that it is normal for the students who come to live in the suburbs and not in the centre where the prices are high:

“When someone is a student or a newcomer to Tirana, he mainly stays in the suburbs, as he does in the suburbs of Paris or Vienna or London. These are set by the market. ”

Veliaj had previously stated that approving lots of housing permits was a good thing as it would drive prices down.

In a report published by the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime, it was noted that real-estate and the funding of new builds was a popular way to launder money in Albania.

“It begins with the financing of new residential or commercial construction, continues with financing the construction contracts and undercounting the value of labour in construction, and again with the sale of the finished buildings.”

It noted that Municipalities often issue construction permits but do not monitor what happens thereafter. In Albania, construction since the fall of communism has been stimulated by people from the Albanian diaspora who invest in the country with funds where it’s not possible to ascertain the source of legitimacy.

According to data from INSTAT, 1028 new building permits covering almost 3 million square metres, were issued between 2017 and 2019 by the Municipality of Tirana.