The Malta Independent 21 September 2021, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: Social housing waiting list - A downward trend

Tuesday, 14 September 2021, 09:51 Last update: about 6 days ago

There are currently fewer than 1,800 people on Malta’s social housing waiting list.

The number has been on a downward trend since 2017, when the number stood at 3,810.

That means that the list has more than halved in that amount of time. Tackling the waiting list has been an issue for many years, and seeing the number decline is great news.

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Speaking with The Malta Independent on Sunday, Leonid McKay, Chief Executive Officer of the Housing Authority, said that part of this decrease is due to the procurement of additional stock of dwellings through the rehabilitation of dilapidated ones and an initiative to lease dwellings from the private sector so that they may be leased for social accommodation.

Other schemes also helped tackle the issue, he said, such as one specific scheme aimed at low-income earners through which the Housing Authority makes monthly contributions towards loan repayments.

In addition, he also said that the decrease is also due to the increased scrutiny of applications on the waiting list, allowing the authority to prioritize cases which need attention but also to strike off applicants who are no longer eligible. “Many of the cases stricken off recently were due to the applicants earning substantially higher income thanks to the substantial economic growth in recent years,” McKay said.

While the decrease has been noteworthy, a point must be made. 1,800 is still a high number of people to be on the waiting list. That also means that Malta’s social housing stock is taken up. This backs up and further raises the concerns that, while the country was experiencing an economic boom up until the Covid pandemic struck… many were not feeling the benefits.

The government has recently spoken about the importance of sharing the wealth, and has done so throughout the pandemic period through schemes like the wage supplement, support to businesses and others.

But perhaps we need to re-evaluate how we want to rebuild now. If the wealth wasn’t really reaching those who were at the bottom of the ladder prior to 2020, perhaps better mechanisms and changes to the way the economy grows, when compared to how things were pre-pandemic, are needed and should be studied.

For example, should Malta again go for economic growth which has a dependency on population numbers? What can be done to ensure that wages rise to meet rising prices, and ensure that Maltese have the financial ability to actually buy a home, rather than see housing prices skyrocket so high that youths today aren’t able to buy?

There are many things that need to be considered, and now is the time to do so. The pandemic has changed the way people do business. Online work is higher than it used to be. We need to capitalise on this chance and find ways to grow the economy that would not allow so many people to fall behind again.  
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