Press Conference of the General Secretary of the Central Committee of AKEL, Stefanos Stefanou

AKEL launches nationwide campaign on housing policy

5 April 2023, AKEL C.C. Press Office, Nicosia

Starting today, AKEL is launching a nationwide campaign on the issue of housing policy under the central slogan “Housing for all”.

The acquisition of a home constitutes a basic right that is guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus. Access to this right reflects the prosperity index of a given society. In recent years, due to the rapid increase in the cost of acquiring housing and sharp rise in rents, access to housing has become even more limited for a significant section of society, particularly for low and middle income earners, the young generation and young couples and for the vulnerable groups of the population.

There are many reasons that have led to this situation:

● As we have already noted, the cost of acquiring housing in the last 2-3 years has risen sharply as a result of a big increase in the cost of construction materials.

● People’s access to loans is extremely difficult.

● Rents have reached unmanageable heights. The increase that has been recorded is among the highest across the EU.

● Wages have remained stagnant in recent years, as relevant studies reveal. As an example, the average wage in our country is 40% lower than the average across the EU.

● The state housing schemes drawn up in recent years have been fragmented and proved to be inadequate, with serious shortcomings and gaps.

● The housing problem is becoming even more acute as the foreclosures of primary homes is proceeding at a rapid pace due to the high rate of non-performing loans and the absence of an adequate legal framework to provide protection.

For that reason a huge problem exists which can only be mitigated by the existence of a comprehensive housing policy that addresses the fundamental problems and meets modern needs.

In an effort to formulate and implement a comprehensive, adequate and modern state housing policy, AKEL together with EDON are today launching a two-month nationwide campaign in which:

●They will discuss their proposals and positions with the relevant Departments, bodies and organisations.

● They will inform and discuss with society and especially with those groups most affected and in need, such as the young generation, young couples, students and remote areas, to promote solutions to the housing problems they face.

Our goal is to convince through this campaign that there are indeed feasible and affordable solutions which can be implemented provided that the political will on the part of the executive power is demonstrated. And because we now have a new government we want to develop a dialogue with the executive power in a constructive way by making our own contribution to the whole debate. We cannot know whether the government will respond [to our campaign and proposals]. But what is certain is that on this crucial issue affecting society, the government’s social sensitivity, priorities and effectiveness will be judged to a large extent.

The proposals outlined today [Note: concretely presented in power point form at the press conference] are an attempt to respond in a constructive way to the acute problem a large number of our fellow citizens face in finding qualitive, affordable and dignified housing. They are the result of detailed study conducted by AKEL’s policy departments.

We believe that our proposals can meet the contemporary challenges. The conditions and existing situation, as well as the needs, were taken into account in the elaboration of these proposals. At the moment, although there is an increased demand for housing, there is a reduced building stock available for purchase or rent at affordable prices. Right now the cost of acquiring land, urban or non-urban, and construction costs are at an all-time high.

Furthermore, the number of households unable to secure dignified housing, either by building or renting, is also increasing. All this, combined with the increase in the number of students, the downgraded public transport system we have in Cyprus and the phenomenon of homelessness that has now appeared, make the promotion of specific policies and proposals to tackle the housing problem imperative.

Housing policy in Cyprus lacks a coherent and strategic orientation. It is scattered in housing projects which from the very outset exclude significant sections of the population, do not have clear and distinct objectives and are characterised by a variety of criteria regarding choice. This fragmentation results in increased administrative and management costs, but also the absence of coordination, as it involves a large number of bodies operating in parallel with each other, while their decisions and arrangements are often in conflict or contradict each other.

It is therefore necessary to establish a Single Housing Authority with responsibility for elaborating policy at a strategic level and dealing with issues of coordination, targeting, priorities and the overall evaluation of all projects in an organised, methodical and systematic way.

Another important part of housing policy is the aspect relating to the 1974 refugees [Note: as a result of the displacement of one third of the population due to the Turkish army invasion and occupation]. In addition to the need for renovation, repairs and the immediate handling of the serious problems observed in specific refugee settlements which have been left to the ravages of time, there is a need for the State to readapt a refugee policy that corresponds to modern standards.

This adaptation must include:

● the modernisation and digitalisation of procedures.

● the increase in the amount of grants and subsidies that are provided.

● the upgrading of grants and subsidies to increase the number of beneficiaries.

There is also a need for a single body to be set up so as to bring together all services that concern displaced persons.

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