Cheap apart­ments in a day

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Is it pos­si­ble for prices of new apart­ments to fall in a day and even to a level that is af­ford­able for young peo­ple and low-earn­ers? Can such an ob­jec­tive be achieved without sub­si­dies, without taxes and grants, and without any­one suf­fer­ing any dam­age?

But if the supre­mos of hous­ing in Cyprus, the in­vis­i­ble Town Plan­ning Coun­cil and the Town Plan­ning Dept. deal with the prob­lem of in­ac­ces­si­ble hous­ing costs, this prob­lem can be solved without de­lay.

In Cyprus, in ad­di­tion to reg­u­la­tions for the build­ing co­ef­fi­cient, the cov­ered spa­ces, height, etc., there are the no­to­ri­ous rules re­gard­ing min­i­mum area. Some tech­nocrats, mainly the highly-paid ones, de­cided that the av­er­age Cypriot should not (whether fi­nan­cially able or not) live in apart­ments that are smaller than a min­i­mum size, de­pend­ing on the num­ber of bed­rooms. The min­i­mum size is de­ter­mined by the tech­nocrats them­selves. For a twobed­room apart­ment, this should be no less than 100 sq.m. (80 sq.m. apart­ment + ter­races + com­mu­nal area) and for a 3-bed, no less than 125 sq.m.

Hence, the pre­vail­ing prices of new apart­ments is on av­er­age EUR 2,050 / sq.m.So, at EUR 205,000, plus VAT of 5%, the apart­ment has a mar­ket cost of EUR 215,000 (plus the rel­e­vant trans­fer fees) and the 3-bed apart­ment is EUR 256,000 plus VAT, which plus costs and trans­fer fees equals EUR 276,000.

Dis­cussing the is­sue with the Town Plan­ning of­fi­cials, their view is that the Cypri­ots should not “live in holes” and Cyprus “will not look like the Lon­don or Paris apart­ments where a 2 bed­room is only 60 sq. m.” Well done, they cer­tainly care about the qual­ity of life of the Cypriot, but the ques­tion is if a Cypriot can af­ford to buy hous­ing at cur­rent lev­els (and this de­spite the over­all re­duc­tion of prices)?

As cir­cum­stances change, and be­cause the fe­male part­ner is also work­ing in this day and age, the kitchen, as a room, has been abol­ished and re­placed with an open plan kitchen with mod­ern ven­ti­la­tors, a mi­crowave, etc. The age of dou­ble sa­lons has gone and all that be­cause the Cypriot who buys an apart­ment at a min­i­mum size and price can no longer af­ford ad­di­tional rooms.

Mean­while, those in gov­ern­ment, be­ing mis­fed in­ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion, is in­creas­ing sub­si­dies and dis­tribut­ing plots in ru­ral ar­eas at the ex­pense of the state. I am not in favour of abol­ish­ing such state aid, but there are others who are not en­ti­tled to such sub­si­dies or do not want to live out­side of the cities where the gov­ern­ment is of­fer­ing cheap land. The prob­lems cre­ated by the de­cen­tral­i­sa­tion of the pop­u­la­tion, such as lack of pub­lic trans­port, fuel con­sump­tion, waste of time in the car, lack of schools, hos­pi­tals, par­tic­u­larly for chil­dren, etc. are ob­sta­cles to this so­lu­tion. All this, there­fore, are hap­pen­ing in a coun­try which has land for de­vel­op­ment earth to ac­co­mo­date 4,200,000 peo­ple, and yet there is a short­age of land for the cur­rent 800,000 pop­u­la­tion.

So, we must there­fore abol­ish the silly mea­sure and the mar­ket to freely in­di­cate how and what size of a home a Cypriot wants to live in. By abol­ish­ing the min­i­mum ar­eas, we can have two-bed­room apart­ments of 70-80 sq.m. This alone will have the fol­low­ing im­pact:

80 sq.m. x EUR 2,050 + VAT + Trans­fer fees = EUR 172,000 as op­posed to our pre­vi­ous ex­am­ple of EUR 220,000 (a dif­fer­ence of EUR 48,000) and that of the three bed­rooms with at least 100 sq.m, the dif­fer­ence will be EUR 58,000.

I sub­mit to you that un­til re­cently (now re­pealed) only Com­mu­nist China pro­vided the sys­tem of min­i­mum ar­eas due to over­crowd­ing (a reg­u­la­tion that too has been abol­ished), while other coun­tries that have such a sys­tem (23 states in Amer­ica) do not have the lim­i­ta­tions of build­ing co­ef­fi­cient, height, etc.

If we look at hol­i­day apart­ments, eg. Ayios Elias in Pro­taras, with the old area of ??2 bed­rooms be­ing 60 sq.m., com­pared to those be­ing built now hav­ing in­creased the min­i­mum to 90 sq.m., the dif­fer­ence in cost to the buyer is in ex­cess of EUR 70,000.

So, only the wealthy and the for­eign­ers can now en­joy this lux­ury of a hol­i­day home.

Why is the State in­ca­pable of grasp­ing the ever-wors­en­ing sit­u­a­tion? Why have the Town Plan­ning Coun­cil, the tech­ni­cal cham­ber ETEK and other or­gan­ised bod­ies (eg. ar­chi­tects’ as­so­ci­a­tion), as well as the rel­e­vant min­is­ters, so slow to un­der­stand this?

I ex­pect from this gov­ern­ment, as de­clared by Pres­i­dent Anas­tasi­ades, to work to­wards a more ef­fi­cient and car­ing ap­proach, that will cost the state noth­ing and will, on the con­trary, earn the sup­port of the gen­eral pub­lic.

Fi­nally, I would like to add that if this in­com­pre­hen­si­ble mea­sure re­mains, the present gov­ern­ment should pro­pose to abol­ish the im­port of small ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing those without the lux­ury of air-bags and air con­di­tion­ing, be­cause within the logic of the Town Plan­ning Coun­cil, Cypri­ots do not de­serve to be trans­ported in such qual­ity ve­hi­cles.

Per­haps, the whole farce is rem­i­nis­cent of Marie An­toinette’s fa­mous last words, “let them eat cake”?

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