Amid rising rent prices, new coalition calls for ‘dignified’ housing opportunities

15 civil society organisations, under the ‘Malta rent coalition’ umbrella, talk of vulnerable people’s inability to cope with rising rent prices

The government proposed doubling the rent subsidies for low-income earners living in private residences
The government proposed doubling the rent subsidies for low-income earners living in private residences

Fifteen organisations representative of civil society have joined forces in calling on legislators to act on the rising rent prices which are negatively affecting the most vulnerable in society who can’t keep up with the price hike.

Coming together under the ‘Malta rent coalition’, the organisations said they were joining forces to raise the issue on the national political agenda.

“Our coalition is based on a shared vision where economic growth is not equated with deprivation and marginalisation, but instead leads to social and human prosperity for all.”

The organisation said that the sharp increases in rent prices over recent years was seriously impacting the ability of vulnerable persons, including families, to secure dignified accommodation.

The worst affected include survivors of domestic violence, the elderly, persons with disabilities, migrants and refugees, women trapped in prostitution, youth, persons with mental health problems, and newly-separated or divorced persons.

“In our experience, persons falling into multiple categories, such as women with disabilities or elderly refugees, are more acutely affected.”

Other persons include those on low or even average income.

“Although possibly a sign that Malta is becoming more prosperous, several Maltese and foreign individuals are simply unable to cope,” they said.

“Whilst we welcome Malta’s economic growth, we also urge the authorities to engage in a process that will ensure growth that is truly nation-wide, and based on principles of social justice and respect for human dignity.”

Malta, the coalition added, needs to ensure that all persons have access to affordable accommodation.

The organisations making up the coalition work closely with many of Malta’s marginalised communities and they are witnessing the consequences of sharp and often unpredictable increases in rent prices.

This, they said, is resulting in homelessness, families regularly moving from one locality to another, substandard quality of accommodation, over-crowding, replacement of studies with employment and over-reliance on temporary shelters.

“These are exacerbated by the long waiting lists, or ineligibility for social housing.”

The coalition urged the authorities to give the matter “due and urgent consideration”, not only in the interests of the persons directly affected by these situations but also for the sake of securing social cohesion and dignified living conditions for all persons.

Prior to the presentation of Budget 2017, Caritas and the Alliance Against Poverty urged the government to address the matter.

In reply, the government proposed doubling the rent subsidies for low-income earners living in private residences – from a monthly maximum of €83 to €166. The means test to assess who qualifies for the scheme will also be revised” with eligibility requirements such as the need to have less than €10,000 deposited in a bank account removed.

In an attempt to clamp down on tax evasion of rental income, the government said it would only grant such doubled subsidies to people who present copies of their rental agreements.

The government is also launching a pilot project for people willing to rent out their properties to people on social housing prices for a minimum of seven years. These landlords will see income tax on their rental income decrease to 5%.

The coalition is composed of: aditus foundation, Alleanza Kontra l-Faqar, Anti Poverty Forum Malta, Caritas Malta, Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Integra Foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service Malta, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, MGRM, Dr. Marceline Naudi, , Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, The Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM), Richmond Foundation, Spark 15, St. Jeanne Antide Foundation, Women’s Rights Foundation