This is not wishful thinking, but with the prevailing changes in Government, we hope that real estate matters will be better treated with increased care and attention.
- If we were in charge, our first job would be, to implant into the minds of the civil servants that they are there to help and interpret the laws and regulations on a rather “loose” basis for the benefit of the citizens, so that applicants/buyers and others are helped and not exploited. This is most important since our experience so far is quite the opposite. Unfortunately, there are “Little Hitlers” in the civil service around in large numbers.
- Push through the building permits, by changing the procedure, as well as the procedure for the issue of the titles. As the system is at the moment, it is exactly the same and time consuming as existed 60 years ago. Short and summary procedures to be undertaken by the supervising/private practice architects and engineers. Similarly, the titles could be issued/prepared by qualified engineers and save matters regarding serious omissions and building issues, the rest to be provided with some sort of a “temporary title” to be corrected in the future (but nevertheless it is a title which could be sold, mortgaged etc.).
- Push through the common expenses law which regulates the cohabitation of numerous owners in a single project. A pending issue over the last 15 years. A proposal has been submitted now and passed into law, but it is half-baked, and most provisions are unworkable.
- Set a time limit for replies by the Civil Service/Authorities. Non-replies within the time limits to count in favour of the applicant.
- Put a halt to the uncontrolled building density transfer from Natura areas since it destroys the local planning plans.
- Limit to the minimum the Natura areas which place such a big financial burden on the country, something which we cannot afford. As an example, Paralimni Lake of around 600 donums is classed as Natura in order to protect a certain water snake which lives there. We think it is more correct to fence a 200 donum area and move the snakes there fully protected and if need be fed. As matters stand at present, this decision will cost the Government around €60 mln and another €100 mln for the Akamas.
- Put an end to the setting of minimum sizes of residential units, something which increases the cost of housing by approximately 30% (and as such the Government must provide subsidies and use state land to reduce the housing cost for the lower-income groups). Its proposal of affordable housing is not working, as we predicted 1 year ago.
- Encourage increased building height especially in seaside areas, thus preserving the environment and provide increased seaside views.
- A complete rethink on the golf courses. The basic requirement will be to retain the 400 donums required for public green to be used for sports uses in one-two places in the project – or this to be located with other suitable areas by the developer. The developer to construct the sport installations and maintain them for 5 years before passing it on to the local authority (a previous suggestion of ours now being adopted).
- The annual property tax and the owners’ municipal taxes to be charged individually to the buyers, blocking the procedures for transfers and so that sales are not hampered.
- Use the private sector in all stages of real estate development/procedures subject to spot checks by the local authorities.
- Set up a “people’s” office so any member of the public can complain about real estate issues. Applications to be subject to a fee payment so that the cost of the service is covered. Already exists but with regard to various non- building licenses (not for the building industry).
- Financially support the Cyprus Investment Authority whose income and added expenses will come from a fee charged to those who actual benefit – A sort of success fee.
- Enter into negotiations with banks and other financiers regarding interest rate charges, especially on delayed payments, so that already distressed people are not penalized – pushing them under, much earlier than otherwise.
- Encourage development in agricultural areas within the peripheral areas of towns, to increase supply and lower prices. This scheme to be based on cost so that the benefits pass on to the people not only to the developer and others.
- Appoint a deputy Minister to handle Town Planning and Lands Registry matters – see the excellent results regarding the deputy Ministers of Shipping and Tourism.
These and many others are some of our own ideas which need to be addressed to meet present-day requirements.
Invite foreign experts to advise us on such matters who will look at our property matters with fresh ideas.
What we are worried about is that none of the politicians talk about real estate, restricting themselves to the Cyprus situation and state of the economy.
Most important as these matters are, life goes on and we must also cater for everyday living.