Failed promises lead to increase in waiting list for social housing

The number of people on the waiting list for social accommodation has increased since the Labour Party came to power in 2013 despite repeated social housing commitments made in the government Budget year after year.

Only 10 newly-built social housing units have been allocated since Joseph Muscat was elected prime minister in 2013. The waiting list for accommodation has increased from 2,800 in 2013 to 2,920, Social Accommodation Minister Roderick Galdes said in response to a parliamentary question.

The Labour government’s promise for social housing was first announced in its first Budget in 2014, promising to “reduce the size of waiting lists for social accommodation”. In reality, the opposite occurred, despite no less than five Budget commitments.

Two years later, in the 2016 Budget, the government said the Housing Authority would embark on a €50 million project of new social housing units.

During his 2017 Budget speech, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna repeated the plans from the previous year and said that “works will start on the construction of the first units… which over a period of three years will result in a considerable number of new units for social accommodation”.

In the 2018 Budget, the government again promised to invest €50 million that would create nearly 7,000 additional housing units.

In his speech for the 2020 Budget, Scicluna said that “through an exercise of better optimisation and an increase in investment which will reach €60 million, the government will be building 1,700 new units”.

“Work on these projects is proceeding according to schedule,” he had said.

In a recent European Social Policy Network report titled National Strategies To Fight Homelessness and Housing Exclusion, University of Malta academic Mario Vassallo highlighted the “lag in investment in social housing” during the 2013-2017 legislature leading to homelessness and housing exclusion.

The report shows that the majority of people (65%) who used the YMCA shelter in Malta between 2016 and 2018 were Maltese, while another 35% were migrants.

The increase has been noted by both Caritas Malta and YMCA that say figures were larger than the number of cases living rough reported to the police which were “recently presented in parliament,” according to the report.

Vassallo noted that this had “necessitated a more than proportional investment in the current legislature”. He also pointed out that entitlement to social housing was “never reviewed”. People who were allocated social housing continued to live in it “indefinitely, and for successive generations”.

Since becoming prime minister, Robert Abela has pledged to make housing more affordable and to introduce new social housing policy.

                           
                               
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