Housing boss says State must assist persons ineligible for social housing

Former Caritas director and new Housing Authority chief Leonid McKay has clarified comments on homelessness he gave to the press


Housing Authority chief executive Leonid McKay
Housing Authority chief executive Leonid McKay

The new Housing Authority boss Leonid McKay, a former director of Caritas, has rushed to clarify comments he gave to The Times in an interview which gave the impression that Malta’s exorbitant property prices were not to blame for homelessness.

In a comment on Facebook, McKay said the “misleading” title ‘Don’t blame the housing market for homelessness…’ failed to communicate his view that homelessness is not only a result of the property market’s demand and supply dynamics.

“It entails a deeper understanding of the changes within our so called welfare mix: which implies that a large part of welfare and care provision is carried out beyond or with very little interference from the state or market – whereby community ties play a very important role.”

In the interview, McKay, who has campaigned for an increase in mininum wage, is quoted pointing out that “changing traditional ties” in the family were leading to a homelessness problem.

“I never rejected the fact that low-income households are doubling and forced to search for alternative cheaper accommodation [and] lifestyles because of the current overpriced rent market prices in the current economic neo-liberal economic structure,” McKay said in his Facebook comment.

McKay said he was conscious of the fact that the housing market had failed to deliver decent and affordable accommodation to low income earners.

“I strongly advocate that the State should take an active role and address market failures through, among others, investment to directly provide social housing units to the weakest of our society… introduce new schemes for affordable housing to support those persons who are not eligible for social housing, keep promoting home ownership, [and] importantly, provide a robust framework of the private rental sector which ensures stability and protection for vulnerable tenants.”

Having worked closely with persons seeking emergency shelters at Dar Papa Frangisku over the past three years, McKay said it was evident that people with a higher risk of seeking an emergency shelter were those with persistent substance dependence, persons with mental health challenges, persons with a history of institutionalization, victims of family breakdown due to domestic abuse and violence, and more recently migrants, both from EU and Sub-Saharan countries.

“I remain committed to work to work for sensitive and relevant housing policies to ensure decent and affordable housing for the most disadvantaged. I strongly believe that housing is a fundamental human right, not a commodity. This is what I really stand for,” McKay said.

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