The cabinet has proposed a bill to amend the allocation and management of Turkish Cypriot properties to modernise the state’s handling of the matter, Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Tuesday.

The new approach aims to make relevant procedures more clear, equal, meritocratic and protective of refugee interests, according to his written statement. It is based on a system of applicant eligibility which takes into consideration the socio-economic situation and family composition of applicants and scores them using “clear, objective and measurable indicators”.

The changes will place limits on the discretion of the guardian of Turkish Cypriot properties, a role filled by the interior minister. Ioannou said lack of restriction in the past has resulted in abuse and exploitation.

Applicants wishing to reside in Turkish Cypriot properties will now have any privately-owned property by themselves of their family in the Republic or the occupied areas counted for the first time. Arrangements required to cover the real housing needs of the family would also be factors.

“In this way, we will ensure that the decision to grant will be made based on the actual needs and capabilities of the applicants,” Ioannou said.

Similarly, for the allocation of land for agricultural use, an applicant would be considered eligible if they own land or practice a profession in the occupied areas. A ceiling would be set on the area of land granted to prevent individuals from over-accumulating Turkish Cypriot property and to promote fairer distribution of available agricultural land.

In cases of commercial real estate, the degree to which applicant income derived from professional activity in the available real estate would be a key factor in determining grant eligibility. Scoring for these applicants will involve owned property, family composition, and applicant’s professional status.

Ioannou said these measures aim to “significantly reduce the injustice that existed until now against Turkish Cypriot real estate owners”.

The process of improving the management of Turkish Cypriot assets has been ongoing since August 2023, Ioannou said, and the lease contracts for 3,211 properties – two thirds of the total used for professional purposes – have been audited, with lease violations found in 416 contracts.

Measures have already been promoted to recover the properties, he added.