The Malta Independent 23 May 2018, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Rent crisis - Not all so rosy

Tuesday, 13 February 2018, 09:50 Last update: about 4 months ago

The story The Malta Independent on Sunday carried of a young single mother fearing that she might be pushed out of her home along with her young boy if her rent is increased, had an enormous impact among our readers.

There are other, heart-rending details in the story. What comes across is the sheer helplessness of it all: this woman, as the story explains, has been reduced to making do on just €20 a month, because the social assistance she gets is gobbled up by paying for an overdue tax bill, and rent at €400 a month. Her utilities bill is paid by Caritas and she gets food from a charitable food bank.

Let us focus on the residence aspect. This woman has been trying to get social housing for years but has always been unsuccessful. She is not the only one: there are cases of people sleeping in their car and the mayor of Marsascala has been quoted as saying he knows of a number of persons who have been reduced to live in a subterranean garage because the rent charged is less than that charged for an apartment.

The government, after sitting on its hands for five years and building not a single unit of social housing, has now promised a White Paper and, maybe, after that a programme of social housing which has been already announced and preliminary work on some units has begun.

But there may be other measures that can be taken. What about, for instance, the government paying half this woman’s rent since the government has been unsuccessful in providing this woman with social accommodation?

This woman could have accepted offers by friends who are on social assistance themselves to go and live with them, and maybe the problem would exacerbate. Or she could go and live with her parents but even here the problem would exacerbate.

This case, and we repeat, there are other similar cases, drives a coach and four through the government’s relentless boasting that this is the best time. It may be the best time for some people at the top of the pile – those with secret accounts elsewhere, those with golden passports, those who have been chosen for a position of trust, etc.

But there are thousands living an honest life and getting peanuts every year, especially pensioners. Many are finding they cannot cope with the normal expenses on a minimum wage, or on a pension. And when something extraordinary happens, they find they do not have the money for it.

And beneath them, there is this hidden strata of non-persons living a non-life eking out the €20 note and making it last a whole month.

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