‘We’re not homeless, we just rent’: ministers on why they declared no property

Jo Etienne Abela and Chris Bonett say they listed no property in their declaration of assets because they do not own one as they hit back at Opposition’s homeless jibe

Parliamentary Secretary Chris Bonett (left) and Minister Jo Etienne Abela live in rented accommodation
Parliamentary Secretary Chris Bonett (left) and Minister Jo Etienne Abela live in rented accommodation

Cabinet members Jo Etienne Abela and Chris Bonett have clarified that they live in rented accommodation after listing no property in their declaration of assets.

Both hit back at jibes from the Opposition that asked whether they were homeless and applying for social accommodation.

Active Ageing Minister Jo-Etienne Abela said on Facebook that he lived in rented accommodation and "is not ashamed of this".

"For the PN, living in rented accommodation is a dishonour. I believe that everyone can choose how to live their lives. I am happy with what I have [in life]," Abela said.

In a similar reaction, Parliamentary Secretary Chris Bonett said he lived in a rented apartment because circumstances did not permit him to buy a house for his family. "I do not own immovable property," Bonett said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

Bonett and Abela made no reference to property they own in their declaration of assets tabled on Monday, leading Nationalist MP Mark Anthony Sammut to rhetorically ask whether they were homeless or living in social accommodation.

“I am neither homeless and have not applied for social accommodation. The PN’s attitude is disgusting and shameful; it shows that the party is more interested in carrying out personal attacks on people like me who come from working class families… than addressing the issues we were elected to tackle,” Bonett wrote.

He insisted that all that his family achieved in life was the result of hard work. “We were never gifted anything,” he said.

“How can they [PN] speak on the needs of the people if at the same time, they ridicule those who are truly homeless and who need social assistance? This is why the people have repeatedly chosen the Labour Party and handed the PN massive defeats,” Bonett said.

He then hit back by insisting that he does not take lessons in transparency and integrity “from who fails to pay his taxes”. The reference was to Opposition leader Bernard Grech who only settled longstanding tax dues when he contested for PN leader in 2020.

In a similar jibe, Jo Etienne Abela underscored that he had no tax dues with the tax authorities.

Abela also explained that the ministerial code of ethics made it clear that new ministers were under no obligation to make financial declarations for the period before they were elected in parliament.

The declarations of assets by Cabinet members, covering 2021, were tabled in parliament on Monday.