Finance Minister Clyde Caruana said that building aesthetics will be factored in to a new scheme offering tax relief on the purchase and restoration of old properties.

Addressing a press conference, Caruana said the budget measure, which offers tax exemptions on the purchase of old properties, officially came in to force on Friday.

The exemptions on capital gains and stamp duty apply to the purchase of properties that are more than 20 years old and have been vacant for seven years or more, as well as properties in UCAs or built in the “traditional style”.

He said a committee was being set up to assess applications for tax exemptions for buildings done up in “traditional styles”.

In October it was announced that duties and capital gains tax will be charged up to the first €750,000 of the properties’ value. The scheme also applies to properties under promise-of-sale agreements. To avoid speculation, properties cannot be divided.

Caruana said part of the plan was to not only leave more money in people’s pockets, but to ensure that localities are regenerated through building restoration.

He said such fiscal measures were a positive way to give building aesthetics the importance they deserve.

Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia said such incentives encourage the building industry to readjust their focus on restoring traditional and vacant buildings.

Andre Pizzuto, who heads the Kamra tal-Periti, said the chamber had for years flagged how planning and design were not being given enough importance.

Pizzuto said the chamber would be helping the government draw up new plans to improve building aesthetics.

The measure, announced in October, has raised questions about whether it is sufficient to protect zones in towns and villages that are outside the UCA but still merit protection.

Alex Torpiano from Din L'Art Helwa had questioned whether allowing 20-year-old vacant properties to be included in the scheme was a device to make relatively modern unsold buildings more attractive.

And he questioned whether the focus on 'traditional style' might “encourage fake vernacular rather than promote good design”.


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