This is a theoretical approach on our part and not a wishful thinking, but with the prevailing changes of Government (the Ministers), we hope that real estate matters will get better (it cannot get worse we suspect) treated with an increased care and attention by those in Government.
• 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 exploit unwary people. 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 title issue. As the system is at the moment, it is exactly the same and time-consuming procedures are still adopted, a system that existed 60 years ago. Short and summary procedures to be undertaken by the supervising/private practice architects and engineers (adopted in part but private architects are not up to it, so, it is not widely used). 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 future (but nevertheless it is a title which could be sold, mortgaged etc.) – adopted in part now.
• 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 approved into a law, but it is half ended, and most provisions are unworkable.
• Set time limit for replies by the Civil Service/Authorities. Non reply within the time limits to count in favor of the applicant.
• Put a halt on the uncontrolled building density transfer from Natura areas and other since it destroys the local planning plans.
• Limit to the minimum the Natura areas which places such a big financial burden on the country, something which we cannot afford. As an example, the Paralimni Lake of around 600 donums is classed as Natura 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 etc. As matters stand at present, this decision will cost the Government around €60 mil. and another €100 mil. for Akamas (still pending the long waited 25 years old plan).
• 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 handouts, subsidies and use Government land in order to reduce the housing cost for the lower income groups). Its proposal of affordable housing is not working, as we have predicted 1 year ago (see our previous analysis on the subject).
• Encourage increased building height especially in seaside areas, thus preserving the environment and provide increased seaside views – see now the “army camp” housing estates 2 floor height that exists.
• A complete rethink on the golf courses. 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 the same for 5 year before passing it on to the local authority (a previous suggestion of ours now being adopted).
• The annual property tax and the owner’s municipal taxes etc. to be charged individually to the buyers (be it without title) and not as a whole, blocking the procedures for transfers and so that sales are not hampered. An old proposal of ours. Now adopted in part but not for the Municipality charges, blocking the whole system of transfer.
• Use the private sector in all stages of real estate development/procedures subject to spot checks by the local authorities/Lands Office.
• Set up a “people’s” office towards any member of the public can apply regarding any complain on real estate and of course to follow up and reply within a set time – Non replies by the authorities to attract penalties, depending on the time of the reply. Applications to be subject to a fee payment so that he cost of the service is covered. Already exists but regarding various non- building licenses etc. (not for the building industry).
• Financially support the Cyprus Investment Authority whose income and added expenses will come from a fee charge to those who actual benefit – A sort of success fee.
• Enter 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 plus basis so that the benefits pass on to the people not only to the developer and others (submitted previously in a detailed article of ours under the heading Urban Consolidation).
• Appoint a deputy Minister to handle Town Planning and Lands Office 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 in a bad situation which came about based on the British system of Government which was introduced 60 years ago 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 is that none of the recent presidential and M.P. candidates touched upon such down to earth matters, restricting themselves to the political situation and the state of the economy – Most important as these matters are, life is going on and we must also cater for the everyday living. We have written to the candidates at the time on the subject and from what we understood is that “they do not bother”!!