A roof on your head is a right, so is affordable housing | Justin Anastasi

The key to success is ensuring and enforcing value for money and fair pricing, waging war on abuse and re-investing proceeds from development into social benefits for those who stand in the lower ranks of the economic ladder

Photo: Micaela Parente/Unsplash
Photo: Micaela Parente/Unsplash

Article 25(1) of the Charter of human rights lists adequate housing as one of the fundamental human rights, crucial to ensure a fair standard of living for all persons. In today’s day and age however, development is being regarded as a commodity and a form of investment, rather than an essential factor in ensuring physical and mental well-being.

Despite being listed as a human right, more and more individuals and family units are faced with the fears of eviction, high maintenance cost of property and the generally high prices of property. Eurostat figures show that rent rates have increased by 18% during the last 10 years, while the price of property has soared by 48% during the same time period.

Malta is no different and follows most European countries. The increase in gap between wages and property prices is transforming basic accommodation into an unaffordable luxury for most. The problem lies primarily for youths. Studies have shown that most times their incomes barely reach half the mortgage capital needed to buy basic accommodation without taking into account the generally impossible amounts they are asked to cover deposits and initial expenses.

From basic research, it results that for a person to be eligible for social accommodation, the indi-vidual must not earn more than €10,000 annually and not have personal wealth exceeding €28,000. Average salaries in Malta reach almost €19,000, but what happens when people earn more than €10,000 but less than the average wage as projected by statistics? Many will agree that none of these persons and even those who earn just above the average salary bracket, still cannot afford to buy property.

The rental market is likewise becoming unaffordable. Current rent rates take up more than half the average national salary. We now have situations where rooms and even beds are rented out to foreign workers.

With the current Government’s plan of inflating the economy by allowing more non-EU nationals to work and reside in Malta, there is no immediate possibility of rent prices ever decreasing. While such an economic model may be good news for speculators on the property market, the same economy tramples upon the fundamental human right to fair accommodation.

The search for housing is a concern for many and reaching unacceptable stress levels. Most indi-viduals tend to work multiple jobs in order to afford a reasonable standard of living for them-selves and their families. This puts strain on relationships, both personal and professional. The knowledge that no matter how hard you work and how hard you try to make ends meet will never better your situation is resulting in a disgruntled workforce for the Maltese Islands.

We now live in a situation where the rich are becoming richer and the poor are becoming poorer. No COLA adjustment, tax rebate or investment incentive seems to be improving the situation of those who cannot and never will be able to afford suitable housing. It is strange that while supply of housing units is widely exceeding demand, the prices remain steadily on the increase. The Gov-ernment must address this issue right now, without further await. A serious strategy must be put in action to ensure that Maltese citizens regain a status they have long and historically enjoyed, that of being home owners.

I am sure the government itself is aware that the effort towards a healthy and striving economy must rest on the pillar of a population which enjoys an adequate standard of living and which feels rewarded for its efforts. The strategy must also ensure that the interests of investors are protected and that their investments continue to yield as they have done in recent years.

The key to success is ensuring and enforcing value for money and fair pricing, waging war on abuse and re-investing proceeds from development into social benefits for those who stand in the lower ranks of the economic ladder as well as putting social housing at the core of political prom-ises and manifestos but most importantly a revision of the thresholds for those who may benefit making this more accessible for more persons, be they individuals or family units.