Government housing a disaster waiting to happen

2 mins read

Two months ago, we published our difference of opinion regarding the Limassol Municipality to undertake an extensive housing development project in collaboration with the Housing Development Organization.

This is a dream that the Limassol Mayor and his Council have for their town.

Still, it is a dream that is not only non-attainable but will cause social and economic hardship for the Municipality, the cost of which will run into millions in unpaid/uncollected dues.

Interference of local politicians in choosing candidates, the illegal extensions, the occupation of common use areas (quite normal in existing government housing units), non-payment of common expenses and the possible compensation the Municipality may have to pay for the expected 150 existing tenant families to be relocated are some of the problems.

As if we were in accord with the Ministry of Interior, the Minister last week recorded thousands of titles of government housing units that are not capable of being issued due to the tenants’/occupiers’ interference with the project.

He quoted as an example a refugee who was granted free of charge a building plot, on which he built a small house subsidized by the State.

After 38 years, the house is in a bad state due to the lack of maintenance by the beneficiary, and the Minister added that the government would help out with the repairs required.

Never-ending subsidizing will be a regular occurrence for the Limassol affordable housing project.

The result is that we expect the project proposed will need to be substantially and constantly subsidized by a new generation of Limassolians from whom we will expect a reaction both for financial and social reasons.

Unfortunately, the prevailing attitude of the public is that government land (or Municipal) and subsidies are for free for everyone to exploit for their benefit.

We wonder if there is a feasibility study to include our financial concerns and this project’s social side effects.

This will come up after 3-4 years from completion of the project when the problems will emerge (including the creation of ghettos) a similar situation that exists at present with the ageing refugee estates, which create problems in managing and cohabitation (see recent criminal events regarding parking spaces).

Government housing is not something new, and we should avoid the mistakes of more advanced countries such as the U.K., where thousands of apartments [Council Flats]  were constructed by local Municipalities, but over the years, they realized they could no longer afford to continue.

As such, they decided to sell them; a similar situation exists for the Cyprus refugee housing estates, where millions of euros are due, including illegal extensions, etc., and constant demand for upgrading.  Limited upgrading of the housing units done by the government over the years and bad management/occupation of such units create a never-ending black hole of the much-needed euros to disappear in the thin air.

We believe that we express the general belief that we have had enough with the fine-sounding announcements (partly to do with the pending Municipal elections).

Alas, the existing Municipal Council/Mayor will not be there to realize their mistakes (or our predictions).

The House Interior Committee on the prevailing problems of state housing was happy to declare that “it understands the Government’s problems, but it should try to resolve them” – what does this mean?

Antonis Loizou F.R.I.C.S. – Real Estate Valuer, Estate Agent & Property Consultant