The Malta Independent 21 August 2019, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Unaffordable housing - The need for long-term planning and an immediate fix

Saturday, 2 March 2019, 11:22 Last update: about 7 months ago

Opposition Leader Adrian Delia made a very bold pledge on Wednesday night but it was a pledge that should really be taken up by all political leaders.

Closing off the PN's General Council, Delia said a Nationalist government would guarantee every person's right to have a roof over their head.

Now at face value one might ask what the Opposition Leader was on about - the construction frenzy that has gripped the country is surely producing enough roofs to cover everyone's head many times over. But this is clearly not the case, as recent reports and statistics have shown.

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Homelessness is in the rise, there are over 70,000 people living at risk of poverty and young couples - even those with university degrees - are finding it increasingly hard to afford a property.

Yes, this administration had initially launched some good schemes to help young people become home owners - the first time buyer's scheme was a resounding success and was renewed several times. But property prices are rising at a faster pace than young couples can keep up with while, at the same time, the banks have not increased the maximum lending amounts.

The government recently launched a scheme aimed at helping single people over the age of 40 - presumable separated people or divorcees - acquire their own property. The problem here is that there is practically no property on the market that can be bought with the amounts that these people can borrow, even with the help of this scheme.

Over recent weeks, the government focused greatly on the new social housing units that are going to be built. Social housing is necessary to help families that are in situations where they absolutely cannot buy their own property. And the Prime Minister was right in saying that social housing will not be dished out as a Christmas gift and that families who manage to improve their situation would then have to move out to make room for others still in a more disadvantaged position.

But the problem the country is facing lies not only with the vulnerable classes, but also the middle-class working families and the new graduates who, because of the way in which property prices have skyrocketed, just cannot afford to buy a property, or who will enter into a great financial burden if they manage to do so.

Delia was right when he said that the government says it is pro-business but is, in fact, only for big business.

This is a government that measures economic success by how well the rich are doing, by speaking about six-star developments and attracting tourists who can afford spending €5,000 a day. But it seems to be forgetting about the new class of poverty that is inadvertently being created by the huge success being enjoyed by the few.

It is about time that the economy starts being measured at the other end of the spectrum - by how badly the people at the lower end are doing.

The government also needs to have a long-term economic plan that takes into consideration a future slowdown. There currently is talk of a possible recession hitting the US. If that happens, as unlikely as it currently seems to be, it will affect the entire globe, like it did in the past.

Speaking at an MDA event earlier this week, the PM said that he is against planning which tries to forecast today what the needs of our children will be in 25 years' time.

"This is not realistic, and countries, including Malta, which tried to do this, realised they were wasting their time. Things are happening at such a fast pace in today's world, and technology is developing so quickly, that predicting the future is impossible," he said.

The issue with the PM's statement is that the fast-pacing advances we are experiencing are having a negative effect on the property market now, and the sector needs not only long-term planning but also an immediate fix. 


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