[WATCH] Social housing not for life, Prime Minister says of Labour government's mentality change

Joseph Muscat says government’s emphasis on social mobility means social housing should be available for as long as a person needs it • €50 million project financed by passport money will see 500 social housing being built

Upward and mobile: Joseph Muscat's Labour government's middle class oriented ideology wants to tackle the sense of entitlement of social housing applicants. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Upward and mobile: Joseph Muscat's Labour government's middle class oriented ideology wants to tackle the sense of entitlement of social housing applicants. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Housing Authority CEO Leonid McKay says families will be followed even after being allocated social housing

People benefitting from social housing should make way for others more in need if their life situation improves, the Prime Minister has warned.

Joseph Muscat was speaking on Wednesday morning at a signing ceremony for a €50 million social housing project financed by the National Development and Social Fund. The fund manages the money raked in from the sale of citizenship to rich foreigners.

Muscat said a mentality change was needed to ensure that the State could continue to help those most in need.

“I know this is an unpopular position to hold but we have to combat the sense of entitlement. The State is here to help those most in need but if the life situation of a person in social housing has improved we have to look at systems that continue to support that individual through other schemes while using the apartment for other people who need social housing,” Muscat said.

The Labour government has come under fire from its own grassroots for failing to put social housing units on the market since 2013. There are ongoing projects, part of a separate €50 million investment undertaken by the Housing Authority but so far, no units have been allocated to the 3,000 people on the waiting list.

The Prime Minister said that 89% of the cases on the authority’s waiting list were inherited from before 2013.

Muscat insisted social housing was not a perpetual lease and a mentality change was required. “This will not apply to those who already benefit from social housing under schemes from the past but this is a new way of looking at the situation,” he said.

Muscat described the €50 million project financed by the NDSF to build 500 new units as the biggest investment in social housing for decades.

The NDSF and the Housing Authority signed a memorandum of understanding outlining the parameters of the project that will see social housing units going up in different localities.

Housing Authority CEO Leonid McKay said the idea was to spread out the availability of social housing units so as not to have a concentration in singular localities.

The type of units that will be built is also determined by a profiling exercise of the almost 3,000 people on the authority’s waiting list.

The Housing Authority and the National Development and Social Fund have signed a memorandum of understanding for the financing of a project that will build 500 social housing units over the next few years. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
The Housing Authority and the National Development and Social Fund have signed a memorandum of understanding for the financing of a project that will build 500 social housing units over the next few years. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

Muscat said the identification of smaller sites across different localities would help foster social integration.

“It would have been easier and less expensive to just identify an area outside the development zone and build a housing estate. But we opted for something different, which takes more time to develop and is more expensive but can lead to better social integration,” Muscat said.

Localities identified for social housing include Paola, Kirkop, Rabat, Żabbar, Luqa, Żurrieq, Siġġiewi, Qrendi and Marsaskala.

Social housing must not be confused with affordable housing, Muscat cautioned, adding the government intended tackling the latter with a reform of the rental market.

The Prime Minister did not put a date for the rental market reform but insisted a delicate balance had to be maintained that avoided pushing the rental market underground or stopped people from investing in it.

“We have listened and the government will be taking a decision but while striving for social justice, we will not be playing around with people’s money,” Muscat said.

More in National