The government on Wednesday unveiled new cash incentives to encourage young couples to live in the countryside and revive local businesses in rural areas.
Aiming to boost the economy and entrepreneurship to address rural depopulation, particularly in the mountain areas, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris presented two new packages on Wednesday.
President Nicos Anastasiades told the media the cabinet had also approved additional measures to support communities in rural and other disadvantaged areas.
Anastasiades said: “By dealing problems in a comprehensive way we aspire in the near future to make areas now considered disadvantaged compared to urban and coastal areas into attractive places for permanent residence for young families, investors while safeguarding small and medium-sized businesses”.
The President said there were already public benefit projects included in the €250 mln national strategy for infrastructure and amenities in Troodos mountain villages, as well as incentives for agrotourism and road projects.
Nouris said the government will launch two housing schemes for communities in rural and disadvantaged areas, including those bordering the buffer zone.
He said measures to boost rural communities, include an improved version of a scheme which was launched in July 2019 and has so far received 226 applications worth €6.5 mln.
“The new scheme will be extended to another 130 communities, bringing the total to 258. Beneficiaries will be entitled to financial assistance of up to €55,000 and additionally up to €15,000 for special construction such as retaining walls, and up to €10,000 for people with disabilities,” said Nouris.
The second scheme targets specific rural areas, encouraging young couples and people to settle in the countryside.
It covers an additional 128 communities, offering up to €20,000 for families of four members or more and up to €15,000 for people who live alone or families of up to three people.
Applications open on March 1 and close on December 31 this year.
Nouris said that the government will give an annual grant of €400 for families living a minimum of 40 km from an urban centre to support movement to and from services located in cities.
The grant will increase proportionally to the distance starting from €400 for those living 40 to 59 km from a town, rising to €500 for 60-79 km and €600 for more than 80 km.
The grant will be available for residents of 101 communities in addition to grants offered to people living in mountains at an altitude higher than 600m. Applications can be submitted from 2 April.
To boost small and medium-sized enterprises active in rural areas, Nouris said that the government will be allowing for some town planning relaxations.
The first scheme will allow people living in rural areas to expand their homes, by adding space of up to 40 square meters to accommodate a small business or office.
The second scheme for people opting to set up shop in their homes have the opportunity to buy land from the state needed for parking at 70% cheaper.
Nouris stressed the new measures are a continuation of a comprehensive policy launched in 2019.
“At this difficult time, the Government continues to implement solidarity policies, with social sensitivity aiming to support its citizens and strengthen development.”