The former Minister of the Environment of Ireland, Alan Kelly, told developers to build accommodation that was affordable for Ireland’s citizens, adding that they should “get real”.

Kelly realised that the minimum size of apartments set by the regulations was larger than what the people could afford.  He suggested the minimum required size be reduced to a smaller area.

In addition to reduced sizes the minister added relaxation measures regarding parking requirements and so on, especially for the town centres in order to encourage affordable homes in the city centres, so that people can be close to their work.

I disagree with setting minimum sizes for apartments and residential units and my company has been fighting this nonsense for the last 20 years with no success. The planning department’s director argues that Cypriots should live in a “descent” space and not in “small boxes”.

Instead of examining what people can afford and what measures are required to help solve the housing problem in terms of affordability, they provide the ‘high and mighty’ locals with ample living space as if all Cypriots are on salaries like theirs. This excess of space has been recorded in EU statistics recently which show that Cypriots live in residential units which are approximately 15-20 per cent bigger than the EU average.

Very few countries that have planning zones, building density and height regulations also have this measure of minimum living space.  When one considers that for residential units the average sales price is now around €2,200/square metre for resales and for the €6.000/square metre by the beach, this means a 5 square metre difference is a difference of €10,000-€30,000.

Smaller units are needed for those who cannot afford the bigger ones.

Older two-bedroom apartments of 60 square metres are nowadays the most marketable, especially when it comes to holiday homes.

Such a development in Profitis Elias in Protaras has a waiting list of buyers looking at a price of around €125,000, as opposed to better and more spacious accommodation of 80 square metres, with a €30,000 difference with limited demand.

To those who are against smaller units, we say, if you can buy a Mercedes car why buy a mini? It is of course a matter of price.

I blame the planning director at the time, the Cyprus technical chamber, the association of architects and so on for not grasping this basic economic principle, let alone the developers’ association who seem to have no stand on this matter, be it that they are the people who will benefit the most.

Those who cannot understand the basics of the building industry should either be sent home and/or pay compensation for the cost that they cause (financial and human) to the coffers of this country.

When one considers that almost 25 per cent of buyers are foreign, the local market and the affordability of the foreign market should not be ignored bearing in mind the large percentage that it comprises in terms of demand.

Could we borrow Kelly for a period of time to examine the nonsensical state of our planning requirements? After all, it took another Irishman, John Hourican, to start fixing the Bank of Cyprus!

 

Antonis Loizou & Associates EPE – Real Estate Valuers, Estate Agents & Property Consultants, www.aloizou.com.cy, [email protected] FRICS