Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou addressed the 18th Real Estate, Land Development, Planning, and Construction Conference on Wednesday, outlining recent developments in the real estate sector, as well as the government’s priorities regarding urban development.

Ioannou commenced his speech by commending the initiative taken to organise the conference, providing professionals in the real estate and land development sector with a platform to scrutinise recent market trends.

“The construction sector is witnessing rapid changes, necessitating flexibility and adaptability from industry professionals and governmental bodies to foster development,” he said.

Highlighting the government’s commitment to improving public services and facilitating business operations in the construction sector, Ioannou discussed measures taken to streamline licensing and titling processes.

“The previous procedures for issuing development permits and property titles were time-consuming, causing significant delays detrimental to development,” he noted.

Moreover, Ioannou addressed the impending reform in local government, particularly the transfer of licensing authority to the five regional self-government organisations, effective July 1.

He also stressed the need for smooth consolidation to ensure faster processing and improved services under a unified authority.

In pursuit of goals to reduce delays and enhance service quality, Ioannou disclosed concrete actions taken by the government.

“A capacity plan identified the necessity to recruit 105 individuals to bolster existing personnel for expedited licensing,” he said.

He explained that “already, 87 individuals have been hired and deployed“, with plans for further recruitment and training aligning with the establishment of new licensing agencies.

Additionally, Ioannou outlined measures aimed at simplifying state urban and spatial planning, expecting improved development prospects.

“Through the establishment of flexible and expedited procedures, we anticipate eliminating significant delays observed in titling processes, thus reducing inconvenience for people,” he asserted.

Moreover, the minister noted that since October 2023, following consultations with the Cyprus Scientific and Technical Chamber (Etek), a package of 22 measures was created, the implementation of which has already begun, with a completion deadline of July 1 of the current year.

In terms of the reforms aimed at streamlining the licensing process and improving efficiency in local governance, Ioannou said that the purpose is to modify existing procedures to reorganise the entire licensing process and introduce a more flexible framework to reduce the processing time of applications.

“Since last October, we have been implementing a series of measures to expedite the licensing process,” stated Ioannou.

“One of these measures includes prior consultation with relevant services such as the Fire Service and the
Electricity Authority of Cyprus, among others, to ensure applications are submitted in an integrated manner,” he added.

Furthermore, Ioannou highlighted the importance of technological integration in improving efficiency, noting that “our ultimate goal is the full operation of the Ippodamos information system”.

“This system will allow for the electronic submission of all requirements, further reducing processing times,” Ioannou said.

 

The minister also said that since January 1, 2024, new requirements have been introduced to ensure the accuracy and completeness of applications.

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“Prior securing and submission of an external demarcation certificate is now required with town planning applications,” explained Ioannou. “This measure aims to facilitate correct submissions based on on-site data and prevent delays in examination.”

Meanwhile, he said that efforts are underway to standardise procedures across different licensing authorities.

“We are preparing a unified manual in collaboration with the Interior Ministry and Etek,” he said.

He added that “this manual will introduce common forms, procedures, and criteria to be uniformly applied in the examination of applications”.

In addition to procedural reforms, Ioannou stressed the importance of training the staff involved in the licensing process.

“A training plan has been developed for both ETEK members and regional self-government organisation staff,” he said, noting that “the aim is to ensure proper submission and examination of applications, thereby minimising delays in decision-making”.

One of the flagship measures being implemented, he explained, is the abolition of the obligation to obtain town planning and building permits for small developments.

“This legislative regulation will hold the architect or civil engineer responsible for the accuracy of project studies,” explained the minister. “Additionally, the role of building inspectors will be introduced to enhance on-site inspection.”

Ioannou continued by saying that “the urban and spatial planning of the state is changing, aiming to serve people directly and enhance development prospects”.

He said that alongside changes in the urban planning licensing process, “radical reforms in the process of issuing property titles have been initiated and implemented”.

He explained that a number of changes have been implemented or are in the process of being enacted, aiming to eliminate any unnecessary inconvenience.

These changes, he noted, seek to reduce the overall time for completing the application and issuing titles within three months, on average.

The minister said that since January 2, 2024, a new procedure for issuing property titles has been in place.

He explained that this involves updated practices for applications seeking to divide land parcels (both horizontally and vertically) to create new property titles for plots and other units.

Now, prior to submitting a division application, obtaining an external demarcation certificate and conducting survey work are prerequisites.

This, the minister continued, ensures that all necessary documents are included in a fully completed application, leading to quicker evaluations and guaranteeing that development stays within parcel boundaries.

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Furthermore, to speed up the process, the role of privately responsible surveyors has been introduced. This allows people to choose their own surveyor and proceed with development on their own schedule.

As a result, Ioannou said, “wait times for surveying work from the Department of Lands and Surveys are reduced, enabling the department’s personnel to focus on other tasks”.

Ioannou also stressed the need for an increase in residential stock, with a focus on providing affordable housing options for those in need.

“Our new housing policy is centred around people and strengthens the welfare state to offer solutions to socioeconomically vulnerable citizens who struggle to meet their housing needs,” the minister stated.

Ioannou also highlighted the implementation of two key measures since December, namely the ‘Build to Rent’ scheme and revised urban planning incentives.

Through the scheme, developers are granted additional free building coefficients of up to 45 per cent, provided they allocate all additional units for affordable rent for at least six years.

Coupled with tax incentives, this aims to add 800 residential units over the next three years, the minister noted.

Addressing any identified shortcomings, the minister announced revisions to urban planning incentives to boost housing production and availability.

This includes granting an additional building coefficient of up to 45 per cent, with 25 per cent of additional units to be sold at a price reflecting the average construction cost for affordable housing purposes.

Alternatively, developers utilising these incentives may opt for a financial contribution to the state, calculated at 50 per cent above the building coefficient value.

Ioannou also expressed appreciation for feedback from professional associations regarding the ‘Build to Rent’ scheme and urban planning incentives, highlighting their importance in refining policies.

“We view the construction sector as the engine driving development in our country, with a significant contribution to the economy and entrepreneurship,” Ioannou said.

“For this reason, we invest in our collaboration with all organised bodies in the construction sector, wanting to strengthen it further,” he added.

“I assure you of our political willingness to intervene and modify entrenched procedures and practices to ensure the interests of both citizens and professionals,” the minister concluded.