Cypriot refugees are forced to live in their cars as they wait for Turkish Cypriot properties to become available amid rent price hikes in the Republic, MPs heard on Tuesday.
This tragic situation is the result of the absence of substantial proposals by the current government and the termination of the refugee housing policy in 2013, chairman of the House refugee committee Akel MP Nikos Kettiros said.
Only on Tuesday, Kettiros said, the acting director of the Turkish Cypriot Property Management Service Giorgos Mattheopoulos received three letters from people living in a car asking for a Turkish Cypriot residence to be granted to them.
Others end up living together with multiple people, with their parents, siblings, or with one or two other families, the Akel MP said.
There are displaced people who used to rent and their contract was terminated following increases in rent as they could not afford to pay more. They might be receiving state benefits or be pensioners and cannot rent at current market prices, Kettiros said.
Since they cannot afford to rent, they are also not eligible for rent subsidy, the chairman explained.
And if there are no Turkish Cypriot houses available, he added, their only option is to find a relative to stay with, or sleep in their car.
According to Kettiros, a political decision is needed to start a housing policy, at least for the lowest income groups.
“I’m not just referring, obviously, to people who are displaced. There are also local people who have serious problems.
“I think that this should be taken seriously by the state because, unfortunately, for some years now, there have been homeless people in Cyprus and we all know cases and we all face such facts,” he said.
But Disy MP Rita Theodorou Superman said this is a broader issue regarding homeless people, which competent stakeholders will have to deal with, whether they concern refugees or not.
It is not a solution “to take out some Turkish Cypriot property owners to house some others, who at the moment, as has been reported to us, are living in their cars,” she said.
Diko MP Zacharias Koulias agreed with Superman, saying the state should establish a housing construction system, as was the case with workers’ housing.