New housing scheme launched

New housing scheme launched to fund rented households in need of urgent structural repairs.

Government housing units in Senglea in need of urgent structural repairs.
Government housing units in Senglea in need of urgent structural repairs.

A new scheme aimed at funding repairs of extraordinary nature in rented pre-1995 houses, family and social solidarity minister Marie Louise Coleiro Preca said.

The scheme which the minister described as a "priority" will be aimed at repairing houses which are posing dangers to persons lives and which can neither be repaired by the tenants nor the owners.

Coleiro Preca said no sum has been allocated to fund the scheme since the ministry will be evaluating all applications and deal with them urgently.  

Owners of rented houses which predate 1995 are responsible for structural repairs of extraordinary nature, however the minister explained that some owners are not in a position to pay for repairs or are unwilling to carry out repairs.

"This has pushed a number of persons to ask for social housing as they cannot live in dangerous dwellings," she said.

She added that the government has therefore decided to repair these houses in need of urgent repairs in order to "prevent families from being uprooted and avoid certain areas from becoming dilapidated."

Each household will be eligible for up to €7,000 to repair houses and if repairs cost more there are other schemes which can be applied for. One particular scheme which is set to be expended is currently applicable to post 1995 houses and has €3,000 ceiling.

Asked how many persons live in such conditions, the minister said that so far 11 requests have been received but the real number is unknown.

We have not set a limit because we do not know the extent of such problems," Coleiro Preca said, adding that the ministry is dependent on peoples feedback to draft its policies.

The minister also pointed out that unlike other Housing Authority schemes, the applicants' annual income threshold will be set at €25,000, instead of the customary €20,000

"We have changed the means testing process to ensure that vulnerable families are guaranteed dignity in social housing," the minister said, adding that the change in the annual income threshold will in the future be applied to all schemes.

"To strengthen the concept of inclusion in social housing the government is also streamlining application processes and eliminating administrative fees for persons on social welfare," Coleiro Preca said.

Citizens who need help will no longer find obstacles to get their dues.

At the moment over 3,000 persons are on the Housing Authority's waiting list, however only 47 dwellings have been identified for housing, the minister said, highlighting the difficulties in finding enough houses.

The minister was speaking in Senglea, where the government is launching a new initiative to repair housing units owned by the government which are also suffering from dangerous structural problems.

"We have come here at the Bastion apartments in Senglea to expose the reality of housing estates in the country. Dangerous structures have been flagged by residents years ago, however under the previous administration only a tender for scaffolding was issued however no repairs were carried out."

She added that the tender process for repairs is almost complete and works should commence in coming weeks.

Previous administrations never made funds available for such projects, the minister said, however the Labour government would make new funds available in the 2014 Budget.

She added that over 730 apartments need urgent repairs, at an estimated cost of €2 million.

This is wrong! Monies should be applied towards helping tenants acquire premises from the present owners. Then help (partially) these new owners to restore. Let them take ownership of the premises and eventual restoration. Fishing rod not Jesus Christ's free fish.