The government will unveil a new housing strategy in May after a Labour Ministry survey showed rents in Limassol and Nicosia have risen by 40% and 33% respectively in the period of 2015 to 2018.
The announcement was made at a House Interior Committee meeting during which the government came under fire for the dramatic rise in rents islandwide, and particularly in Limassol, which has created serious housing problems particularly for vulnerable groups.
MPs and citizens groups criticised the government for failure to act and the absence of social welfare housing initiatives.
Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou said the ministry’s study will help formulate housing benefits for beneficiaries of the minimum guaranteed income scheme. Over the period 2015 to 2018, the government has paid 31 m euro in rent assistance while the ministry immediately responds to personal appeals to help individuals and families with a housing problem, she said.
The moment the ministry is informed someone is homeless, it automatically approves housing benefit, she said.
According to Emilianidou there are homeless people but there are people in need of housing which the ministry places in hotels on a temporary basis.
Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said that the new housing policy will be announced in May.
Committee chair Eleni Mavrou told reporters after the meeting that the delay was unacceptable. The government had promised to announce a new housing programme in January and today MPs have again heard about studies, without any practical solutions being advanced.
The state’s temporary measures may ease the problem but there were not a solution, she added.
Lefteris Georgiou from the NGO En Ergo movement said that since October 18 when the issue was again in the House, nothing has been done. He said he daily came into contact with people who are either living on the street or in squalid conditions. There are families with children who have no milk, living in hotels without a permanent home. He said that at least 210 people live in very squalid conditions.