The Cyprus Community of Melbourne and Victoria (CCMV) may provide an interesting case-study for many smaller Greek communities grappling with the future of community properties, particularly as the post-war generation of Greek Australians fades away. With the pressing question of who stands to benefit from the potential sale of these assets, the recent Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Special AGM held last Sunday garnered important attention.
“Under a charity status they will not have to pay significant tax, because as a registered not-for-profit organisation under the Corporations Act and it was not exempt from taxes such as land tax.
“These amendments had to be added before we begin the process of developing a new building for the Community.”
The tired looking CCMV building in Brunswick is up for major redevelopment and the process is not easy.
They have spent $500,000 on engineers, lawyers, VCAT, to obtain a planning permit for a new six level building.
“The whole of the ground floor will belong to the community with retail space, on top will be 52 two-and three-bedroom apartments to be sold,” Theophanous said.
According to the president of the Community, they are actively urging Greek and Greek Cypriot community members to purchase the apartments.
“There will be a large community hall, and a kafenio and three retail shops we can use one for the community and rent out the others to generate income for the community.
“How great would it be to have an apartment on top of the Cypriot Community, where you can come down and have a coffee or a bite to eat at the kafenio,” said Theophanous.
The CCMV has a debt about $2.6 million and the idea of redeveloping the building and creating is “to eliminate our debt and have an income stream.”
“Making it into a charity means that if ever the Cypriot Community was to dissolve then the assets can only go to another charity,” the president said.
A disadvantage of that though, Theophanous said, is that if a Greek, of Cypriot Greek organisation is “not a charity then they cannot have the assets passed on to them.”
“Once we get our charity statis we’ll be advising the Cypriots of Sunshine and the Cypriots Northern suburbs on how to attain charity status.”
“The Greek Community of Melbourne, Victoria (GCM), Cypriot Community, perhaps the Pontians, the Cretans are big communities and will probably stay, yeah and maybe we should find a way to gradually bring across the assets from minor communities if they need to wind up.”
As a former government minister, the complexities of dealing with such issues are not lost on him, and he knows firsthand the level of detail required. And he revealed that it cost a $500,000 just to get to this stage.
“Former board executives never had that sort of money to spend, and neither did we, so we got two grants from the Victorian government, and that’s what allowed us to do it.”
“If somebody had asked me, or to the others at the beginning of this process how much it is to apply for a planning permit, I would have said maybe on $50,000, but it’s nothing like that, not with a complex building like this.”
“It’s not just the engineering, or the architectural drawings, it’s about going to VCAT, the lawyers involved, the environmental studies, traffic management studies and so on.”
“We spent $500,000 just to get a planning permit and we would not have been able to do that without the assistance of the Victorian Government,” said Theophanous.
Despite his extensive experience, Theophanous is not one to get carried away, and he believes that, realistically, the building won’t be completed until 2026.