STUDENTS with place at the Technological University of Cyprus (Tepak) in Limassol have been protesting about the lack of affordable housing in the town, reported Politis on Thursday. It quoted the president of the students’ union, Andreas Patsalis, as saying that some students with a place at the university were considering not attending because they could not pay the rents demanded for a studio or one-bedroom apartment; some students from other towns did not have a car to make the journey every day.
Patsalis, who discussed the problem with the Rector of Tepak and the Mayor of Limassol, took the typical Akel ideological line that is embraced by people from all political parties. He condemned all attempts by property owners to increase their profits on the back of the students and called on relevant authorities and organised groups to start a public dialogue in order to tackle this phenomenon. The way he presented the problem, gave the impression property owners were breaking the law in trying to secure the highest possible rent and had to be punished.
In Cyprus, we refuse to come to terms with the idea of the free market, in which prices are determined by the law of supply and demand. As soon prices go up there are calls for the state to intervene in the market. The high rents being charged in Limassol are a consequence of the success of the town in attracting many foreign businesses and their employees. The big influx of people has increased demand for rented accommodation and therefore prices. And in the centre of the town, in which students want to live because the university is there, rents for flats is even higher because it is a popular area.
Unaffordable housing is not a problem confined to students. There are working people and families that cannot afford the rents being charged in Limassol, but they are not demanding the intervention of the authorities – they find accommodation on the outskirts of the town or one of the many nearby villages, which are 10 to 15 minutes’ drive from the centre. This is the price of the success of turning Limassol into a thriving, expanding, cosmopolitan business centre. It is the reason local businesses are booming and doing much better than those in other towns.
High rents have become a part of Limassol life and neither the authorities nor the unions can change this. Students will have to accept this reality just as the thousands of people working in Limassol have done. Market forces determine rents in a free economy not the state.