It is perfectly understandable that people are protesting about soaring property prices in Limassol. Rents have been on an upward spiral for a few years and the protests about the problems created for the less well-off are becoming more frequent. The latest was held on Saturday night outside the Limassol District Office, where tents were set up and people stayed in them to highlight the shortage of affordable housing in the town. A homeless family with three children was also there.
The pressure group appealed to the president to do something about the soaring rents that are driving people out of the town, but the harsh reality is that nothing can be done to ensure affordable housing for ordinary people. Rents are determined by demand and supply and high demand caused by the influx of foreigners has been pushing them up. Limassolians are victims of their town’s success in attracting hundreds of foreign companies, the employees of which increase the demand for housing, pushing up rents and land prices.
This influx of foreign employees and their families has also been beneficial for Limassol, boosting demand for goods and services that creates jobs. This is the reason the town suffered the least during the recession – foreign businesses and their employees carried on pouring money into the Limassol economy, shielding it from the worst effects of the downturn. Unaffordable housing is a consequence of a thriving local economy but that does not benefit low-income earners.
It is ironic that the lack of affordable housing for locals is being experienced at a time when two dozen high-rises are planned in the town. Apartments in these blocks however are well beyond the price range of ordinary Limassolians and will be sold to wealthy foreigners who will probably spend one or two months a year in them. In a few years’ time there is a distinct possibility that Limassol would be dominated by high-rises with empty apartments while there is no affordable housing for locals.
Inevitably, many people will move to the outskirts of town or the surrounding villages where land prices and rents will also rise eventually. This is the price of success. Perhaps the Limassol municipality should seriously look into the option of social housing, one of the demands of the pressure groups. Before long the lack of affordable housing will become a major social problem for the town’s authorities and the municipality should be prepared.