The Malta Independent 25 September 2018, Tuesday

Taming the rental market

Carmel Cacopardo Sunday, 4 March 2018, 08:56 Last update: about 8 months ago

The policy document entitled 'A Proposal for Rent Regulation in Malta', published last week, has been endorsed by 17 NGOs that are mostly involved in the field of social action. It is a proposal for rent regulation in a situation where everything concerned with property in Malta is spiralling out of control and has been in this state for a number of years. In the process, many have made lots of hay while the sun shone, frequently at the expense of vulnerable people.

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It is about time that a sense of justice is restored in the rental market, and the sooner the better. The vulnerable - undoubtedly the hardest hit in the post-2008 free-for-all - have been patiently waiting for the country to listen to its social conscience regarding the rental market.

The creation of a social safety-net, even in rental matters, is primarily government's responsibility. The government fulfils this not only through the direct provision of affordable housing to the most vulnerable, but also by facilitating access to a tamed rental market to the rest - a market which ought to be relatively free but fair at all times

The model proposed by the 17 NGO coalition is founded on a number of basic considerations: the fundamental right to a home, a clear demarcation of the rights and duties of landlords and tenants - both of which have the right to peace of mind, enhancing the long-let rental market, recognising the landlord's right to establish the initial rent and its variation within a fair regulatory framework, and incentivising entry into the rental market of property that is currently vacant for a variety of reasons.

The document is short and very brief, being just 12 pages long, yet it is brimming with far-reaching proposals.

It is encouraging that, when meeting representatives of the 17 NGOs, Parliamentary Secretary for Housing Roderick Galdes - who is currently applying the finishing touches to a long-awaited White Paper on the rental market - indicated that he was generally on the same wavelength in seeking to reconstruct a rental market which operates within acceptable and socially fair limits.

Thanks to his inter-disciplinary experiences Galdes, a land-use planner by profession, is in a unique position to ensure that housing policy moves gradually into the 21st century after having been restrained for the past 80 years or so. His declaration is a source of hope to many that affordable housing can co-exist with a tamed rental market.

The central proposal of the NGOs' document is the need to ensure that all leases are drawn up in writing. This proposal is motivated by the need to clearly spell out the rights and duties of both landlords and tenants, thereby ensuring that any abuse (by either) is, if possible, nipped in the bud. In their proposals, the coalition of NGOs drew on the experience of a multitude of other European countries where a healthy and (generally) fair rental market has been in existence for years.

For years, the Greens in Malta have been advocating the need for a healthy rental market, as this is both a social and an environmental necessity. Addressing the social necessity will ensure that we embark upon the road which will lead to ensuring that the basic human right to having a decent home is entrenched in our laws and, hopefully, meticulously applied. This will also lead to a reduced environmental impact of the part of the construction industry, as the adequate development of a fair rental market will eventually reduce development pressure on virgin land as well as on urban conservation areas and protected buildings.

Alternattiva Demokratika - The Green Party is generally in agreement with the NGO Coalition's proposal. We look forward to the publication of the White Paper on the reform of the rental market and will definitely be actively participating in the ensuing national debate.

Taming the rental market is a long overdue objective that should be relentlessly pursued.

The full document can be read here

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