The Malta Independent 15 October 2021, Friday

Budget 2022: Accommodation - 1,200 social apartments nearing completion

Stephen Calleja Monday, 11 October 2021, 20:09 Last update: about 4 days ago

• Equity Sharing scheme to be extended to people aged 30 or more • Government mulling fund offering better terms for low-income families

The waiting list for social accommodation has been brought down to fewer than 1,800 persons, while the number of new applications has dropped by more than a half.

This has happened after 700 social accommodation apartments were distributed by the Housing Authority. Many families took up their own homes from the existing stock or through schemes enabling them to rent private property. The number of families who will take up this latter scheme – known as Nikru biex nassistu (We rent to assist) will go up to 680 next year.

The regeneration of dilapidated property, a programme that started in this legislature, is continuing to bear fruit. The government has more than 30 apartments being used for a social scope.

The programme to embellish existing social accommodation apartments has also continued, with work carried out on facades and the internal common parts. Added to this, another 125 private homes were made more secure and accessible to persons with a disability.

Next year, the first programme of intergenerational accommodation will kick off. This block will accommodate 80 residents – elderly and youths – in a building that is being rehabilitated within the previously mentioned programme.

The building of 500 apartments using funds from the European Investment Bank and the Council of Europe Development Bank is nearing completion. Another 700 apartments, partly financed by the National Development and Social Fund, will also be ready soon.

This year, the Housing Development Fund initiated a study on the introduction of a care plan aimed to enabled more people with specific needs to find accommodation that is suitable for them, which at the same time give them more independence and social mobility.

The Housing Authority was instrumental to increase access to the property market to people with low or medium income. The number of beneficiaries of the Equity Sharing scheme, open to people aged 40 and over, continued to rise. The government pays up to 50% of the cost of the property.

This scheme will now be extended to people aged 30 or over in a bid to help them become owners of their own home. The government will, again, pay up to 50% of the cost of the property as it does with people aged 40 or more.

Other schemes will remain open for younger people to become property owners, such as the payment of 10% of the deposit paid at the signing of the promise of sale agreement. Some 200 couples benefited from the scheme so far.

The home assist scheme will remain open to help couples secure loans from banks to buy their homes.

The government will be exploring the possibility of setting up a fund with special rates and easier terms of payments to help couples with low income to buy their property.

The government has also reached an agreement with the Archdiocese of Malta for the two entities to become the founders of the Affordable Accommodation Foundation. This foundation will draw up programmes to assist different categories of people to find adequate accommodation. The targeted category is made up of people who are not eligible for social accommodation but whose income is not high enough to have access to the property market. The government will be spending €300,000 to cover the administration costs of the foundation.

The government will be reducing the tax rate on the sale of property by half on the first €200,000 on property that would have been rented out for at least 10 years to tenants who are eligible for rent benefits. If this property is sold to the tenants, the no tax will be paid by the buyer and seller. If the property has been rented out for between three to 10 years, then the tax is halved.

The Housing Authority, via a back-to back €3 million guarantee by the National Development and Social Fund, is offering an alternative to people who, because of medical conditions or disability, cannot take a life insurance and as such cannot become home owners.

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