After V18 and the capital of culture… a study to understand Valletta’s residents

The project spearheaded by the Faculty for Social Well-being and the Valletta local council explores the issues of the Capital of Culture 2018, as gentrification prices people out of their homes

The research will also propose ways on how to resolve the issues by presenting solutions towards better communities through utilising community resources
The research will also propose ways on how to resolve the issues by presenting solutions towards better communities through utilising community resources

The people of Valletta are the subject of a study that will aim to understand the issues of the Capital of Culture 2018, as gentrification prices people out of their homes.

The project spearheaded by the Faculty for Social Well-being and the Valletta local council, is also funded by Inspirasia Foundation, entrepreneur Mark Weingard’s philanthropic arm. Weingard himself is one of the owners of a Valletta boutique hotel.

And indeed, the study will not just outline the needs and challenges of the ageing Valletta community, but also study the effects of gentrification, the relationship between different communities and neighbourhoods, and liveability inside the capital and its role as a centre of business.

“Since the business community in Valletta started growing in such a rapid way, with the capital becoming a hub for more activity, the community has started facing new challenges and we have to understand them,” Dean for the Faculty for Social Well-being, Prof. Andrew Azzopardi, said.

Stuff your boutique hotels: The pissed-off residents of Valletta’s capital of culture

The idea to launch the study came when Weingard approached former Valletta mayor Alexiei Dingli, to offer support towards the Valletta community. “We had been trying to commission a study which focuses on the Valletta people since 2006, and finally the needs of the community will be properly assessed,” Prof. Dingli said.

During the discussions held, it was concluded that no clear data on Valletta’s community was available, making the needs of the community nearly impossible to be known. “It is our ethical obligation to give back to the Valletta community. To do this, we must find out the needs of its people first,” Weingard said, who recently announced the funding of the project.

According to Dingli, his work as mayor lacked a direct approach to the various problems the community was facing due to the lack of studies highlighting them. “We could never take a long-haul approach to struggles residents were facing, forcing us to play by ear and react rather than prevent.”

Azzopardi himself said that Valletta’s recent revitalisation had not yet been studied properly, especially from the citizens’ point of view, and that the possible impact on the community from Valletta’s recent international showcasing, was not yet known.

“Let us not forget, Valletta was a place which was ‘scary’ to go to after a certain time just not too long ago. We have seen such rapid change that the much-needed urban planning in roads, traffic and parking management to name a few have tracked back,” Azzopardi said.

V18 was another contributing factor in Valletta’s regeneration. “We need to build on what good came out of this major event,” Azzopardi said.

“Valletta has a different dynamic to that of other towns and villages in the country. What we have to understand is that what happens in Valletta not only affects the residents that live there. Valletta is a governmental centre, we have the civil service and the ministries, therefore a lot of services are rendered from within the capital.”

The research will also propose ways on how to resolve the issues by presenting solutions towards better communities through utilising community resources.

Maria Brown, the lead researcher on the study, said the results will be translated into community development programmes. “The programme will stem from the results obtained, fulfilling a bottom-up approach to the study. We’re not only after data, but also looking to implement a positive change within the community.”

The study will include a questionnaire which will be disseminated amongst a representative sample of the residents, while focus groups will be conducted with stakeholders of the Valletta community.

Initial results have suggested that Valletta residents are concerned about two main issues: the gentrification process through which Valletta has been passing through, with increased commercialisation and revamping of the city, creating conditions which make living in it a bigger financial challenge; and the long-term legacy of V18.

“Preliminary results have shown that the different communities have expressed their worries on how they will be impacted now that V18 has been concluded,” Brown said.

The research was initiated in June 2019 and is expected to be completed by January of next year.

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