Cyprus Mail

Former interior minister weighs in on the refugee buildings issue

Υπουργείο Εσωτερικών – Τελετή παρ
Interior Minister Constantinos ioannou with Nicos Nouris

Former interior minister Nicos Nouris weighed in on criticism from opposition on sweeping the issue of the refugee apartment buildings under the rug, as the his successor Constantinos Ioannou is set to seek approval of a multi-million restoration plan at the next cabinet meeting.

Last week, following a session of the house refugee committee, main opposition Akel leader Stefanos Stefanou accused the previous government, where Nouris was minister, of “unfathomable negligence” over the issue of the refugee apartment buildings.

In total 358 such buildings will need to undergo static adequacy reviews, while 43 of them have already been found to be dangerous.

Some of the 43 will need to be completely demolished in order to meet appropriate building code standards.

Weighing in on the matter and why the plan was never published and the work was not done, Nouris told daily Politis that the government determined it would have been done hurriedly, and that implementing it in such a short period of time would have caused concern for the tenants.

He added that there are many legal problems that also need to be addressed first, mainly related to issues of co-ownership and mandatory consent for the execution of any work in common areas or for the reconstruction of an apartment building.

Along with that issue, Nouris said that the study also coincided with the start of the Covid-19 health crisis.

He added that there is another problem with many owners of the apartments being issued title deeds that causes a problem with the government doing works on the building without the consent of the owners.

“We tried in various ways to solve the problems, but unfortunately our fears were confirmed, after we faced heaps of objections from tenants who either did not want to leave their apartments or did not even consent to the installation of elevators,” he said.

For this purpose and weighing all the data, according to Nouris, the government decided to introduce the programme in phases.

It is, as he said, a project whose size is enormous, since the estimated cost of reconstruction for all 358 apartment buildings exceeds €500 million.

According to Nouris, the situation in the refugee estates was one of the priorities set when he assumed his duties at the interior ministry at the end of 2019.

The study included, among other things, a programme to assess the static adequacy of apartment buildings, which indeed showed that 43 apartment buildings needed reconstruction.

He added that in addition to the 43 apartment buildings, another 40 apartment buildings that had already been evaluated and also needed reconstruction.

He explained that 20 of them had been reconstructed and the remaining 20 are in the process of reconstruction, while another 50 apartment buildings and 2,200 residences were repaired.

Commenting on the efforts of the new minister, he said: “I will be the first to welcome this new effort if it proves to be the solution to overcome the problems that currently exist in trying to completing this difficult undertaking.”

He added that he believes that at the same time with all these initiatives that have been undertaken and are being undertaken, the owners of the units should at some point take responsibility for their maintenance.

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