A treat for developers? New building law passed after nearly 50 years

The law will come into force in 2024.

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Slovakia will benefit from new construction legislation after almost 50 years. The parliament passed new laws drafted by Deputy Prime Minister Štefan Holý (Sme Rodina). The country is on the verge of a revolution in the building permit process.

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“Not a correction, not an amendment, not an overcooked and chewed thing. We passed a brand new law, a modern law that reflects the needs of ordinary people,” says Holý.

The road to passage of the law has been long and, in many cases, a source of controversy. What are the changes made by the law? The business magazine Index offers answers to some key questions.

When issuing building permits, municipalities carry out what is known as transferred execution from state administration. This means that they fulfill the roles originally incumbent on the State after the latter delegated the competences to them. In return, the municipalities collect a fee per inhabitant.

For most municipalities, this is a loss-making process, as the costs of running building offices are higher than the revenue they receive from permit fees. On the other hand, this arrangement allows municipalities to control the entire permitting process and then regulate construction and development.

Municipalities are thus responsible for the disproportionate length of the process of obtaining building permits. In some cases, investors had to wait years before receiving a permit. An extreme example is the Sputnik project in the Ružinov district of Bratislava, which obtained a building permit after 11 years.

The binding positions issued by the capital are another problem. Some promoters have waited up to two years for the municipal authorities to take a stand.

The powers of municipalities to direct and control their own development have also proven problematic, recent examples being the Tatras, namely the municipalities of Jasná and Štrbské Pleso. The pressure from the developers proved to be stronger there than the conceptual development.

All parties involved – municipalities, the state and developers – say change is needed. Mayors are often put in a difficult position as they are expected to approve construction, but local residents pressure them to build as little as possible.

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When introducing the law, Sme Rodina politicians did not hesitate to use it as a tool to fulfill their pre-election promise to build 25,000 apartments per year.

“Now that the pandemic is over, it will be very important to restart the economy, and we can do that by building massively. Not only as a public sector in the form of infrastructure construction, but in collaboration with developers. Whether business centers or apartments,” said Sme Rodina President Boris Kollár.

The law follows the idea that the whole authorization process should be digital. Every resident should be able to acquire a permit via a smartphone. The law will simplify things by considerably reducing the number of steps from 83 to 13. Another fundamental change is the merging of land and construction procedures. The whole process should be greatly simplified and accelerated.

Construction offices will be moved from the municipal level to the state level. A centralized construction office will be created to cover the entire permitting process. In addition, eight regional positions will also be created.

“Today, building office managers are just writing long permits. Now they are supposed to spend more time in the field. That’s why we’re giving more power to building inspection,” said said the Deputy Prime Minister in an interview with Index earlier this year. .

In practice, the granting of a permit should be faster and will not take months. Currently, it takes between six and twelve months to construct a simple building. This will change in weeks. Holý has prepared what he calls a whipping against bureaucrats via binding legal deadlines for them to process applications.

If they say nothing, it will count as ok with the build. In other words, a permit can be granted in just six weeks. In more complex situations, the process may take an additional month.

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Their role will be considerably reduced. They will be able to create their master plans, which will define what can be built on a particular piece of land. At the same time, they will issue a statement with an assessment of a building’s compliance with the urban plan.

There will be no more urban debates and designers will have an important role to play. These will be representatives of planners or builders who will integrate the authorities’ comments into the projects. In other words, they will largely take over the tasks that the building authorities were supposed to oversee.

Yes. It will no longer be possible to legalize illegal constructions.

“Under this law, it will not be possible to cheat the system. If you happen to build such a building, you will not be able to connect it to public networks or have it homologated. The State will order the removal of such a building and will pay for it,” explained Holý.

Analysts say yes. That was Holý’s intention initially.

“The law should increase the availability of housing. This is a big problem today. Experts also agree that the high prices of unavailable apartments are the result of the long process of authorization. People will actually feel an increase in available apartments and their affordability,” Holý said earlier this year.

Developers will have an easier time. Changes can result in faster processes and much faster project implementation. The municipalities will lose part of their jurisdiction.

Residents can find themselves among winners and losers. On the one hand, starting construction can reduce price increases and increase housing availability. On the other hand, careless construction can affect the appearance of sites. In other words, rapid construction does not necessarily have to increase the quality of the environment.

The law was harshly criticized by the Association of Towns and Villages of Slovakia (ZMOS).

“For Ružinov, but also for the other districts of the city of Bratislava, this would mean that they would completely lose control of the construction on their territory. The city districts are stripped of all competences related to construction. For the rest of the municipalities, it would mean a drastic weakening of their competences. An unelected official could cancel their binding declaration,” said Martin Chren, the mayor of Ružinov, in an interview with Index.

Environmentalists didn’t like the law either. According to them, employees will have to deal with an agenda that was not theirs at the start, such as the supervision of public services, the number of parking spaces or connections.

Although the law was originally due to come into effect early next year, the deadline was eventually pushed back to April 1, 2024.

The whole idea is supposed to be based on a quality information system. However, its creation can be complicated and experience with state software so far has not been easy. However, Holý has spent months convincing everyone there will be no problem.

“The submission is being prepared in cooperation with Stanford University, one of the best in the world. We want them to create the technical basis. I expect them to provide us with a working result. I can’t imagine any other better solution.” Holy said.