The interior ministry’s housing expenditure is up threefold for 2022, minister Nicos Nouris told the House finance committee during discussion of the ministry’s budget.

Nouris said his ministry’s budget was geared towards growth and included funds for the support of rural and farming areas.

The ministry’s policies and reforms are based on 11 areas including local authority reforms, housing policy, development through town planning, reform of town planning and construction licensing, comprehensive asylum policy, support of rural areas, electronic governance, and emphasis on the centre of Nicosia.

The budget is €629 million, up from €603m in 2021, with around €90m representing payroll and €67m operational expenses.

Transfers, including grants to semi government organisations, subsidies and housing schemes are expected to reach €231m. Thirty-five million will go towards cofunded projects while €135m will pay for projects currently under construction.

Revenues are expected to reach €151m compared with €122m in 2021. The rate of implementation for 2021 was at 59 per cent in October and was expected to reach 89 per cent by the end of the year. The implementation rate in 2020 was 88 per cent.

The minister said he presented before the committee the various town planning schemes aimed at growth. A significant part of the effort involved the fast licensing process, which has been in force since October last year. It concerns construction of homes with permits issued inside 20 days at the latest.

The government wants to put a similar policy in place for larger developments, up to 20 houses, by June 1, 2022.

Parliament is also discussing a bill that concerns licensing of large, strategic projects within 12 months “so that those opting to invest in our country will know beforehand that they will receive a permit the latest in 12 months and not given indefinite timeframes”.

As regards the Nicosia city centre, Nouris said the aim was to rejuvenate the area, which had been left to decline.

“A clear drastic intervention is taking place on behalf of the government either by moving the (University of Cyprus) school of architecture within the walls, or through providing specific incentives to the private and wider public sectors.”

Nouris said €15m have been earmarked for the construction of student housing.