The Malta Independent 29 March 2023, Wednesday
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TMID Editorial: Rental market - Real social conscience over profit and gain

Saturday, 30 September 2017, 11:35 Last update: about 6 years ago

The Malta Developer Association's 'social conscience' proposals have immediately come under fire and this came as no surprise.

In a meeting with Parliamentary Secretary Roderick Galdes, who is responsible for social housing, MDA put forward a number of proposals which, the association said, are aimed at making more affordable housing available on the market.

Some of the proposals, like the one on increasing the minimum amount IIP applicants have to spend on accommodation (which would mean that they would have to rent more expensive properties while leaving the budget housing for others), seem to make sense.


But one of the proposals, and this was the one that received the most media attention, has been met with incredulity. MDA is proposing that developers reserve parts of new developments for social housing in return for permits to add extra floors.

So, under this proposal, a developer might reserve the bottom floor of an apartment block for social housing in return for a permit to add two additional floor, to be sold at an inflated price. That is quite a bargain.

MDA chief Sandro Chetcuti said in this way developers would be giving part of their revenue for social purposes, but he did not say anything about the added revenue that would come in from the extra floors. Many commented that if developers want to give something back to the community they should contribute to social housing without expecting anything in return.

The association also focused strongly on the problems that landlords face in the rental market, hardly acknowledging that these are contributing to the social tragedy that is unfolding in the sector.

The advent of gaming companies has brought with it a huge demand for accommodation. Since these workers earn more than double the average wage of a Maltese person, they can easily afford paying some €1,000 a month on rent. This has led practically all property owners to raise their prices to phenomenal levels and, while igaming employees are comfortable renting from them, Maltese families have got a sour deal.

We have heard countless stories of single parents, often with young or teenage children, who are forced to live in one-bedroom flats because that is the only thing they can afford. Other, less lucky ones are forced to seek shelter with relatives because they just cannot cope in a market that now caters almost exclusively for well-off foreigners.

We have also heard many cases where tenants are suddenly given days to move out of a property, no doubt because the landlord would have found a wealthier client.

This problem does not only affect single parents or low income families. Last week a group that represents Gozitan students said the rental prices are just too much for these youths, who are being forces to stay on the island and travel to Malta on a daily basis.

Many Maltese, it seems, just want to become rich quickly, and have come to realise that renting property is one of the easiest methods to do so. There is nothing wrong in enriching oneself, but this unruly practice has led not only to the degradation of our urban landscapes but also to skyrocketing prices. Because why would you rent to a low-income Maltese parent when you can rent to a couple of foreign youths with a couple thousand euros to spend on a flat every month?

The government will finally launch a white paper to, as it puts it, get a clear snapshot of the rental market in Malta, but it is surely taking its time. In the meantime these poor families are living in misery.

The authorities have to step in and do something. Whether the government should cap rental prices or not is debatable but something has to be done to keep accommodation affordable. This government is supposed to be a socialist one, after all.




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