ELEMENTS OF CONTEXT
HISTORY OF CITIES – HERITAGE
RIGHT TO HOUSING
In Albania, over 94 percent of all land available for distribution had been decollectivized and privatized and was being individually farmed by 1994. Albanian farmers are generally hostile toward collective, cooperative, or associative collaborations. Albania’s land allocation method was primarily one of per capita distribution rather than restitution. Village land commissions were elected to distribute collective farm land in proportion to family size and collective plot use. Small plots were distributed to assure equity among the farmers, encourage crop diversification, and lower the risk of production failure. However, in some cases local officials left land with the then-current users or attempted to restitute property to former owners. State-owned land was initially distributed to state farm workers on a “use only” basis in the same fashion as the collectively farmed land. No ownership rights were given for this land until 1995, when legislation transferred ownership of state agricultural land.
Albanian land markets have only begun to develop relatively recently because of earlier restrictions on the sale of land. Before 1995, the sale of land was prohibited. However, informal sales were common, which caused titling and registration problems and increased insecurity. The sale of agricultural land did become legal in 1995, but a lack of education and lingering state control impeded market development and landowners’ comfort with land transactions for several years. Until 1998, the sale of agricultural land was subject to the conditions of Law no. 7983, which required the seller to offer the land to family, neighboring land owners, ex-owners, and inhabitants of the village before selling to anyone else. Law no. 8337 now streamlines the sale process, allowing property to be sold to any Albanian citizen once a registration, certification, and documentation process has been completed. Foreign citizens still cannot purchase land, but they may lease cropland for up to 10 years. Current obstacles to a viable Albanian land market include some public uncertainty as to whether land can be properly bought and sold, and a fear of divesting the family of land. As late as 1998, many farmers were not aware that land sales were legal. This has contributed to a lack of sales, leases, and exchanges of land in rural areas.
Another underlying factor impeding the development of a land market in Albania is the lack of security farmers have in their title to land. Early problems with title registration and ongoing disputes as to rightful ownership have impacted selling and investing in land. Because Albania chose not to recognize pre-collectivization land rights, there has been some controversy between “newcomers” and historical owners as to who rightfully owns the land. The government made some compensation efforts to these historical owners in 1995, but interest in recovering family land is still prevalent. Restitution commissions, pursuant to legal mandate that conflicts with the per capita approach to land distribution, have occasionally awarded land to ex-owners when that land had already been allotted to individuals by village land commissions. Additionally, illegal acquisition of land through political or economic influence has been a major source of insecurity for those not having clear title to their land. The resulting insecurity has created some reluctance to invest in or make improvements on the land. Some observers report that investments that have been made are seen predominantly on land that is currently titled to the historical owner. Other more recent observers have noted significant investments being made to land owned by both historical and new owners, as well as by occupants having no title to the land upon which they reside.
Albania is one of the few countries to have created a government agency to focus directly and solely upon land and land market support. The Immovable Property Registration System (IPRS) is an independent agency that reports directly to the Council of Ministers. However, because IPRS is neither a ministry nor subordinate to a ministry, it has not received the needed cooperation from existing ministries and other government agencies (which are subordinate to existing ministries). Observers have recommended that, while IPRS’ independent status is admirable and useful, IPRS be elevated in its institutional status. Such elevation would be hoped to aid IPRS in presenting legislation directly to the parliament, resisting external political pressures, and strengthening the functional status of land registration.
Albania’s IPRS was born of a USAID land registration project that has been active from 1994 through the present date. By November 2000, all 34 planned district registration offices were open and operating, and it has been estimated that 65 to 80 percent of all properties will have undergone first registration by the end of 2002. As a vital indicator of initial success, the system does capture most subsequent transactions. It is clear that a variety of supporting measures, beyond land registration, will be needed to help create an active land market.
Source : FAO, Balkan Countries of Albania and the Former Yugoslavia