The Malta Independent 22 September 2020, Tuesday

Under the same roof? The need for a National Housing System

Sunday, 9 August 2020, 08:59 Last update: about 3 months ago

Roderick Galdes

Our homes are the core of our livelihoods. Think about it, without a home we cannot fully participate as active citizens as without an address we cannot be taxed, we cannot vote and we may also be excluded from population statistics.

As the Minister for Social Accommodation, I am fully aware that we are not all under the same roof and not every family or individual has access to a decent roof over their head. To me, it is important to acknowledge these peripheral domestic experiences. It is only then, that housing will be truly put at the centre of our society. Hence, this vision for the future requires a systems-based approach to housing with a renewed focus, one which considers the significance of an integrative approach to our homes while also acknowledging that housing is a human right. An underlying question that this housing system proposes is: ‘How should we envision, plan and manage housing’?

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I empathise with policymakers, architects, engineers and urban planners alike, as housing a diverse population whose needs and realities are ever-changing is not an easy task. Households tend to change over time and adapt in creative and sometimes unpredictable ways, especially when striving to meet the demands of market forces. Changing households require a housing system that takes a broad, contextual and longitudinal approach to understanding the household as being at the core of social, economic, health and urban transformations.

To achieve this, the Ministry for Social Accommodation has embarked on a national and collective endeavour with scholars, citizens, public, private, and government entities. In the process of rethinking and doing housing differently my team of experts identified four pillars – people, connectedness, sustainability and digitisation. These are inter-linked pillars which will guide our thinking in the process of consultation, planning and managing this long-term vision. 

Homes are at the centre of everything, because people are. Therefore, our future homes must support and serve society.

Homes have the potential to tangibly bring together structure, form, community, cultural values, ideals, heritage, urban planning and housing policies. They are connectors. A system-based strategy sees housing as an organic part of the entire infrastructural network. 

It will become increasingly difficult to sustain our homes unless the system itself becomes sustainable, green, and realistic. Our homes need to be able to stand the test of time while being able to attend the needs and abilities of all. This sustainable intervention will deliberately move towards the circular economy in housing and infrastructure.

Incorporating digital assets is an effective management tool for the housing system of the future. Being digitally connected at home has become a contemporary need as we more people shift to telework – whether it’s due to childcare, illness or a pandemic.

Finally, I am adamant that the development of our first national housing system could be perceived as serendipitous whereby the planning and design of the local housing market could benefit from a culturally-sensitive approach, while simultaneously taking the ‘changing household’ and a rights-based approach as inherent characteristics in policymaking and legislation.

Thus, I hope to facilitate a paradigm shift which recognises the strength of developing a systems-based approach to our future homes. One which moves away from silos in policy, development and decision-making.

Roderick Galdes is  Minister for Social Accommodation 

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