[WATCH] Government stock of social housing will increase by 11%, Michael Falzon says

Some people who currently reside in social housing are no longer eligible to retain their 'in need' status and will have to relinquish their hold on the property, Social Solidarity Minister says

Minister for Social Solidarity Michael Falzon on TVM's Xtra
Minister for Social Solidarity Michael Falzon on TVM's Xtra

Social Solidarity Minister Michael Falzon said that the Housing Authority stock of social housing will increase by 11% in the coming years. A total of 16 sites are planned for development, to cater for 680 new units of social accommodation.

Falzon was speaking on current affairs programme Xtra. He told TVM show host Saviour Balzan that while there were over 3,000 applications for social housing, the large majority of citizens were homeowners.

"Luckily enough, 80% of Maltese citizens are homeowners. 15% are renting based on the old renting law and between three and five percent are renting based on new regulations where tenants are not as protected. The difficulties lie in the latter," Falzon said.

He added that €50 million, a Social Development Fund, would be invested in 680 new units of housing that would cater for open areas and lift services, unlike old social housing units. "Properties will be more environmentally friendly, and while housing units of the past have sustainability issues, these will be renovated when possible as well," he said.

Falzon argued as had the Prime Minister during a Sunday speech that social housing is not for life as labour changed its mentality to widespread criticism.

"If you move on in life, if you're no longer in desperate need, you should make way for people on the lowest rung of the ladder," Falzon said. He added that as Social Solidarity Minister, his role is to reach those people who were in the most need and that these would always get preferred.

"There are several criterias that would make someone ineligible for social housing. The applicant, first and foremost, cannot have a house in their name. If you have a certain income, this too prevents you from eligibility. We're not just looking at income but at the percentage of that income being spent on rent. The government is currently going through a process of profiling," Falzon said.

Poverty

Falzon justified the government's investments and the economy boom by saying that the government would not be able distribute wealth if it didn't garner any.

"17% of Malta's stamp duty is owed to foreign workers for example. Foreign workers are helping the government have more available funds to distribute as social benefits," Falzon said. "A vibrant economy is always preferable."

He added that the minimum wage had gone up to between €8 and €9 a week since 2013 and that the Malta Individual Investment Programme (IIP), though controversial, was contributing to €50 million in benefits. "There's nothing wrong with pushing the economy. Malta's IIP was one of the few approved by the European Commission," he said, adding that the island's economy was seeing a 6% growth rate per year.

Falzon said that there was a strata in Maltese society that was hard to reach even though the government had made various inroads when it comes to the disability sector and the elderly sector, increasing the pensions two years in a row.

"When it comes to poverty, there are those who are at risk of poverty and social inclusion, the number of whom went down by 17,000 between 2013 and 2018, there are those who have a material deprivation that would need to satisfy at least three from nine criteria in order to not be classified as poor, and there are those who are in a state of severe material deprivation, those who are truly in need," he said.

As a Social Solidarity Minister, Falzon argued that in the social sector, there was always more to be done, a new challenge to rise, and that though the number of those with a severe material deprivation went down from 39,000 to 14,000 since 2013, there were still many who needed a helping hand.

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