A significant boost to the availability of student accommodation in Nicosia’s old town is underway, with 25 applications having been submitted for the creation of 315 rooms.

Notably, all the applications – both from businesses and individuals – are centred on already existing buildings which are to be renovated or repurposed for student housing, after the government announced millions of euros being freed up for such works.

With the old city’s Phaneromeni school being turned into the University of Cyprus’ architecture department and the nearby Research and Innovation Centre of Excellence, there has been a renewed push for student accommodation in the area.

Eirini Hadjisavva of the town planning department told daily Phileleftheros that current applications and those expected in the next round – after January – will likely mean that 560 rooms for students will be in the works.

Estimates are that the architecture department would require about 200 such rooms, meaning that the extra 360 or so rooms would be freed up for other students across the board.

Of the applications so far, they range from housing units of 42 rooms, 22 and even 12. One application for about 8-9 rooms was rejected because it did not fulfil all the criteria.

Hadjisavva further said that every effort is being made to smooth out the application process as much as possible, but there are some delays due to health and safety concerns – requiring the input from the firefighting department. The antiquities department is also be consulted.

She explained that some applications required adjustments and tweaks, while others have been forwarded for licensing. Hadjisavva said that many thresholds must be satisfied before an application for the grant can be made, such as having obtained the planning permission, building permits, bids from developers and so on.

The town planning official also detailed that the current round of applications is closed as efforts are underway to update and relaunch the programme, as it hit some snags.

It is understood that some locations which were deemed ideal for student accommodation were ineligible under the current programme. For example, some are owned by companies which were not deemed eligible in the current round of applications.

A likely relaunch will take place in January and will last longer, she said.

The Nicosia mayor and interior ministry announced the student housing scheme earlier in the year, stating that planning and other incentives will be provided to create student residences in the area and accelerate the procedures for the development of the walled city.

It was announced at the time that part of the plan is the purchase of two properties, one on Aristeidou Street and a building complex at the junction of Voulgaroktonou-Arsinois-Komninou Streets, to transform them into student residences, with funding secured by the municipality under the Recovery and Resilience Plan, amounting to €6.9m.

This comes after the renovation of the Phaneromeni school and the transfer of the School of Architecture of the University of Cyprus.

these are part of other measures including a €40m action plan aimed at revamping Nicosia’s walled city that was presented in mid-April, which, among others, will provide grants for businesses to enhance entrepreneurship in the old city. The state will also provide incentives for young families to move into the area as part of a broader government plan worth €116m.