A memorandum of understanding was signed on Wednesday morning, signifying the announcement of the building of 500 new social housing units spread across 22 different localities across Malta and Gozo.
Signed between Raymond Ellul from the National Social Development Fund (NSDF) and Leonid Mackay from the Housing Authority, the MoU sees a €50 million investment by the NSDF into the building of new social housing units.
The NSDF is a posterity fund that receives 70% of the €650,000 application fees. The 500 unit project was first announced by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat during a mass meeting on 1 May last year.
Parliamentary Secretary for Social Accomodation Roderick Galdes explained that the 500 units will be spread across 22 localities, including Paola, Kirkop, Rabat, Zabbar, Mellieha, Luqa, Zurrieq, Zebbug, Qormi, Siggiewi, Qrendi, and Marsascala. The units will come in the form of one, two, and three bedroom apartments, reflecting a concise and detailed study that had been conducted by the Housing Authority.
Galdes said that the increase was complementing the building of 680 housing units across various localities, a development for which excavations had practically been completed across the board and building had begun in Siggiewi and Birkirkara, Galdes said.
Addressing the press conference, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that the government was going to adopt a new way of handling social housing. Muscat said that, although there was no intention to change the situation of those who are in place due to past decisions, as of now the mentality and “sense of entitlement” surrounding social housing had to change, and that social housing had to be something that pushes social mobility rather than stopping at giving the house-key to a person or family. He said that social housing should not be a “cage”, but it should be a stepping stone for social mobility.
He noted that when the government took power they inherited 2,738 pending applications while there were just 40 places left, and that today 89% of the pending cases that they had today were inherited from back then.
The Prime Minister said that the government’s legacy was calculated in how much of a difference it made in people’s quality of life, and noted that this would be the first government in generations to continue to invest in social housing.
He also praised the decision to spread the units across various localities, noting that the easiest and cheapest thing would have been to pick a tract of ODZ land and build a single complex over there. However, the decision to split the units across these different localities would see residents be able to successfully integrate with the community around them.
Mackay meanwhile also noted the 68% of the respondents in their study who needed social housing had at least one child dependent on them. There were different scenarios that could result in people needing social housing – families could be hit by sickness, single parents finding themselves in adverse situations, persons with disability wanting to live more independently, or even the elderly not being able to afford their home.
David Curmi, who is in charge of the citizenship fund, said that it was imperative that the project was carried out in the most effective and efficient way, and added that the development brief for these units would include measures to make sure that they are as sustainable – both economically and environmentally – as possible.
In signing the MoU, Mackay and Ellul were backed by Muscat, Galdes, Curmi, Family Minister Michael Falzon, former Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech, and Housing Authority Chairman Robert Ducker.