The government is to announce a new housing policy in May in response to spiralling rent prices, which rose in Nicosia and Limassol 33 per cent and 40 per cent respectively between 2015 and 2018.
The House interior committee was called on Monday to discuss the spiralling rents across the island and particularly in Limassol, as well as the problems that have arisen among vulnerable groups.
MPs and citizen groups voiced their criticism of the government’s failure to propose a new housing policy earlier, and over the lack of the social welfare services to deal with the housing issues faced by a large portion of the population.
According to the Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou, between 2015 and 2018, the government spent €31m on rent benefits for guaranteed minimum income (GMI) beneficiaries, “and immediately responds to calls for help from individuals and families facing housing issues.”
A new study will be conducted by the labour ministry, Emilianidou said, which will determine by how much the rent benefit will be increased.
“Today, there is not one person living on the street, not even one homeless person, but there are people seeking shelter, and it is to these persons that the ministry responds to immediately, housing them temporarily in hotels,” Emilianidou added.
Also fending off criticism, Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said that the responsibility for the delay in the government’s proposals for a new housing policy lies primarily with the previous government.
In statements after the meeting, the chair of the committee Eleni Mavrou said that while the homeless are increasing and more are living in despicable conditions, “we witnessed today the unacceptable stance of the interior minister.”
She said he committed to producing a new housing policy last January, but was still speaking of studies and announcements, without concrete solutions or implementation timelines.
Mavrou added that the “extinguishing solutions” given by state services may temporary soften the severity of the issue but they do not constitute solutions.
The government, must move “beyond excuses and attempts to deflect responsibility”, and present immediate concrete policies and long-term housing programmes.