Nimmansaw is-suq tal-kera

Il-ġimgħa l-oħra 17-il għaqda, prinċipalment attivi fil-qasam soċjali, ippubblikaw dokument importanti intitolat “A Proposal for Rent Regulation in Malta” dwar dak li għandu jsir biex is-suq tal-kera jkun immansat. Dan id-dokument jipproponi li s-suq tal-kera jkun regulat u dan f’kuntest fejn dak kollu li għandu x’jaqsam mal-propjetá f’Malta tħalla jimxi għal riħu għal ħafna snin. Bosta approfittaw ruħhom minn dan u stagħnew inġustament, xi drabi minn fuq il-miżerja ta’ ħaddieħor.

Wasal iż-żmien għal ftit sens ta’ ġustizzja fis-suq tal-kera. Dawk vulnerabbli, bla ebda dubju l-iktar li ntlaqtu mir-rebus li ilu jiżviluppa prinċipalment mill-2008, ilhom jistennew li l-kuxjenza soċjali tal-pajjiż tagħti ftit kaz tas-suq tal-kera.

Il-ħolqien ta’ xibka soċjali, anke fil-qasam tal-kera, huwa prinċipalment responsabbilitá tal-Gvern. Il-Gvern jagħmel dan mhux biss billi jipprovdi oqsma residenzjali affordabbli għal dawk l-iktar vulnerabbli imma fuq kollox billi jiffaċilita l-aċċess għal suq tal-kera mmansat, jiġifieri suq relattivament ħieles imma suq li fl-istess ħin jkun wieħed ġust. Suq immansat hu wieħed li jopera f’parametri ġusti stabiliti mill-liġi: suq raġjonevoli għas-sidien imma ġust ma kull xorta ta’ inkwilin.

Il-mudell propost mill-koalizzjoni ta’ 17-il għaqda huwa bbażat fuq numru ta’ konsiderazzjonijiet bażiċi: id-dritt fundamentali għal post fejn toqgħod, id-distinzjoni ċara bejn id-drittijiet u d-doveri ta’ sid il-kera u l-inkwilin li t-tnejn għandhom dritt għal serħan il-moħħ, li jkun iffaċilitat is-suq tal-kera għall-kirjiet fit-tul, id-dritt tas-sidien li jistabilixxu l-kera inizzjali u l-mod kif din tkun varjata imma dejjem fil-qafas tal-parametri regolatorji intiżi biex jistabilixxu qafas ġust, kif ukoll li jkun iffaċilitat id-dħul fis-suq tal-kera ta’ propjetá presentement vojta għal diversi raġunijiet.

Id-dokument hu qasir ħafna, kull ma fih hu 12-il paġna. Imma hu mimli bi proposti li huma kemm validi kif ukoll li jħarsu fit-tul.

Hu pożittiv li s-Segretarju Parlamentari għad-Djar Roderick Galdes, li presentment qed jagħti l-aħħar irtokki għall- White Paper dwar is-suq tal-kera, meta kien qiegħed jiltaqa’ ma rapprezentanti ta’ dawn is-sbatax-il għaqda indika li, b’mod ġenerali, hu kien f’sintonija mal-għaqdiet fil-ħsieb tagħhom li jinbena mill-ġdid suq tal-kera li jkun jista’ jopera f’limiti ġusti u raġjonevoli.

Roderick Galdes, professjonist dwar l-ippjanar tal-użu tal-art, qiegħed f’posizzjoni unika bħala riżultat tal-esperjenzi inter-dixxiplinari tiegħu, li jassigura li l-politika dwar id-djar tidħol gradwalment fis-seklu wieħed u għoxrin wara li għal madwar tmenin sena kienet miżmuma milli tiżviluppa. Id-dikjarazzjoni tiegħu hi sors ta’ tama għal bosta li wara kollox hu possibli li suq tal-kera immansat jista’ jipprovdi kera ġusta.

Il-proposta fil-qalba tad-dokument tas-sbatax-il għaqda hi dwar il-ħtieġa li l-kirjiet ikunu kollha regolati minn ftehim li jsir bil-miktub. Dan il-ħsieb hu motivat mill-ħtieġa li d-drittijiet u l-obbligi kollha jkunu mfissra b’mod ċar u b’hekk jassigura l-kontroll tal-abbużi kontinwi, kemm mis-sidien kif ukoll mill-inkwilini. Fit-tfassil tal-proposti tagħhom il-koalizzjoni tal-għaqdiet għarblet l-esperjenzi ta’ diversi pajjiżi Ewropej, fejn (ġeneralment) jeżisti suq tal-kera b’saħħtu li hu ukoll wieħed ġust.

Alternattiva Demokratika ilha s-snin tħeġġeg dwar il-ħtieġa ta’ suq tal-kera b’saħħtu għax dan hu kemm ħtieġa soċjali kif ukoll ħtieġa ambjentali. Il-ħtieġijiet soċjali jkunu ndirizzati meta naqbdu t-triq li trid twassalna biex nassiguraw li d-dritt bażiku għal residenza diċenti jkun imnaqqax fil-liġijiet tagħna, kif ukoll applikata fil-prattika. Imma dan iwassal ukoll għal tnaqqis tal-impatti ambjentali tal-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni billi kemm-il darba jkun possibli li l-kera tkun waħda ġusta tonqos konsiderevolment il-pressjoni biex tkun żviluppata iktar art verġni, kif ukoll il-pressjoni fuq iż-żona ta’ konservazzjoni urbana u l-bini protett.

Alternattiva Demokratika taqbel b’mod ġenerali mal-proposta tal-għaqdiet. Sadanittant nistennew il-pubblikazzjoni tal-White Paper dwar ir-riforma tas-suq tal-kera u bla ebda dubju ser nieħdu sehem fid-dibattitu nazzjonali dwar is-suġġett. Għax wasal iż-żmien li s-suq tal-kera jkun immansat.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : 4 ta’ Marzu 2018

 

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Taming the Rental Market

The policy document entitled “A Proposal for Rent Regulation in Malta” published last week, has been endorsed by 17 NGOs that are mostly involved in the field of social action.

It is a proposal for rent regulation in a situation where everything concerned with property in Malta is spiralling out of control and has been in this state for a number of years. In the process, many have made lots of hay while the sun shone, frequently at the expense of vulnerable people.

It is about time that a sense of justice is restored in the rental market, and the sooner the better. The vulnerable – undoubtedly the hardest hit in the post 2008 free-for-all – have been patiently waiting for the country to listen to its social conscience regarding the rental market.

The creation of a social safety-net, even in rental matters, is primarily government’s responsibility. The government fulfils this not only through the direct provision of affordable housing to the most vulnerable, but also by facilitating access to a tamed rental market to the rest – a market which ought to be relatively free but fair at all times. A tamed market operates within reasonable and just limits: reasonable for landlords but also for a wide range of tenants.

The model proposed by the 17 NGO coalition is founded on a number of basic considerations: the fundamental right to a home, a clear demarcation of the rights and duties of landlords and tenants – both of which have the right to peace of mind, enhancing the long-let rental market, recognising the landlord’s right to establish the initial rent and its variation within a fair regulatory framework and incentivising entry into the rental market of property that is currently vacant for a variety of reasons.

The document is short and very brief, being just 12 pages long, yet it is brimming with far-reaching proposals.

It is encouraging that, when meeting representatives of the 17 NGOs, Parliamentary Secretary for Housing, Roderick Galdes – who is currently applying the finishing touches to a long-awaited White Paper on the Rental Market – indicated that he was generally on the same wavelength in seeking to reconstruct a rental market which operates within acceptable and socially fair limits.

Thanks to his inter-disciplinary experiences Galdes, a land-use planner by profession, is in a unique position to ensure that housing policy moves gradually into the 21st century after having been restrained for the past 80 years or so. His declaration is a source of hope to many that affordable housing can co-exist with a tamed rental market.

The central proposal of the NGO’s document is the need to ensure that all leases are drawn up in writing. This proposal is motivated by the need to clearly spell out rights and duties of both landlords and tenants, thereby ensuring that any abuse (by either) is, if possible, nipped in the bud. In their proposals, the coalition of NGOs drew on the experience of a multitude of other European countries where a healthy and (generally) fair rental market has been in existence for years.

For years, the Greens in Malta have been advocating the need of a healthy rental market, as this is both a social and an environmental necessity. Addressing the social necessity will ensure that we embark on the road which will lead to ensuring that the basic human right to having a decent home is entrenched in our laws and, hopefully, meticulously applied. This will also lead to a reduced environmental impact of the part of the construction industry, as the adequate development of a fair rental market will eventually decrease development pressures on virgin land as well as on urban conservation areas and protected buildings.

Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party is generally in agreement with the NGO Coalition’s proposal. We look forward to the publication of the White Paper on the reform of the rental market and will definitely be actively participating in the ensuing national debate.

Taming the rental market is a long overdue objective that should be relentlessly pursued.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 4th March 2018

Tackling vacant property

Valletta houses

 

Malta Developers Association president Sandro Chetcuti took a good step forward this week when he said that the government should address the issue of abandoned property. It is a small step, but certainly a step forward.

Alternattiva Demokratika – the Green Party – would prefer it if all vacant property is considered, and not just abandoned property. This would help reduce pressure on undeveloped land and, given that less than 70 per cent of existing dwellings are fully utilised, there is room for much improvement in this respect.

Let me start by spelling out the facts, as resulting from the 2011 Census, published in 2014.

In 2011, Malta and Gozo had 223,850 dwellings of which 68.2 per cent were occupied, 13.3 per cent were in use occasionally (seasonally or for a secondary use) and 18.4 per cent were completely vacant.

Table 1 clearly shows that Gozo has a concentration of seasonal accommodation, whilst the actual extent of the problem of vacant dwellings is 18.4 per cent of the housing stock. Another interesting fact shown in Table 1 is that less than 50 per cent of housing stock in Gozo is occupied all year round.

 

Table 1 : Properties in Malta: data extracted from Table 85 of the Census 2011 report

  Malta % Gozo % Total %
Occupied 141140 71.0 11630 46.4 152770 68.2
Occasional use 22404 11.3 7444 29.7 29848 13.3
Vacant 35236 17.7 5996 23.6 41232 18.4
  198780 100 25070 100 223850 100%

 

Additional data of interest made available by the 2011 census is that in Table 2 relative to the state of the unoccupied property, this being the total of the property which is either in occasional use or else completely vacant.

 

Table 2 :  State of unoccupied property: data extracted from Table 140 of the Census 2011 report

  Malta % Gozo % total %
Shell 5374 9.32 1563 11.63 6937 9.76
Dilapidated 1495 2.59 341 2.54 1836 2.58
Serious repairs 4312 7.48 841 6.26 5153 7.25
Moderate repairs 8098 14.05 1126 8.38 9224 12.98
Minor repairs 10475 18.17 1922 14.30 12397 17.44
Good condition 27886 48.39 7647 56.89 35533 49.99
  57640 100.00 13440 100.00 71080 100.00

 

A total of almost 7,000 dwelling units in shell form is substantial, even though most probably the great majority of these properties would be in shell form only for a short period of time. It would be a good step forward if Mepa were to establish a time frame within which properties under construction are to be completed.

In a number of cases, a validity period of five years is too long for a development permit. Permissible completion dates should vary and a system of fines would ensure that our towns and villages are not permanent building sites and would be most welcome by our local councils. This would reduce the presence of dust resulting from building construction material and would be of considerable help in reducing the contribution of building sites to air quality.

This leaves the properties requiring repairs totalling slightly fewer than 29,000. The abandoned properties referred to by Sandro Chetcuti would most probably be those in a state of dilapidation or requiring serious/extensive repairs totalling 7,000.

This is the essential information on the basis of which authorities need to take a decision. It is known that most of these cases are the result of either inheritance disputes or ownership by a multitude of owners whose share has an insignificant value. Fiscal incentives to encourage the consolidation of ownership rights where such properties are concerned are most probably the best way forward. This would address the problem of a number of such properties owned by a large number of co-owners who do not consider it worth the effort to do anything, as they would end up exposing themselves to substantial expenses without any practical benefits.

Reasonable action has to be taken to ensure that properties are not vacant as a result of administrative failures. Subsequently, we can consider the circumstances under which owners of vacant properties who leave such properties vacant for a long period of time should share the financial burden which the state has to shoulder to regulate and service new development. This financial burden is paid for through our taxes and it is only fair that these taxes should be shouldered by the owners of vacant properties.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 11 October 2015

Biex niġu f’sensina

ostrich

Il-pjani lokali li jsiru m’humiex hemm għal dejjem. Jeħtieġ li jkunu aġġornati minn żmien għal żmien skond dak li jkun jeħtieġ il-pajjiż.

Mhux kulħadd jagħti prijorita’ lill-istess affarijiet.

Min iħares sal-pont ta’ imnieħru, (short term) bħalma qed jagħmel il-Gvern Laburista li għandna illum kif ukoll kif għamel il-Gvern Nazzjonalista ta’ qablu, jagħti prijorita’ lill-industrija tal-bini għax iqies l-kontribut li  suppost illi din l–industrija qed tagħti lill-ekonomija tal-pajjiż.

Bħalma ġara f’pajjiżi oħra b’konsegwenzi diżastrużi, l-investiment fil-propjeta’ hu bużżieqa li f’pajjiżna ukoll għad trid tinfaqa’ u meta tinfaqa’ ser iweġġgħu ħafna nies. J’alla ddum ma tinfaqa’ u sa dakinnhar nittama li min għandu jiftaħ għajnejħ ikun fetaħom beraħ u  jkun diġa beda jirrimedja.

Hemm bżonn urġenti li nifhmu li l-industrija tal-bini għandha bżonn tkun ristrutturat. Ma tistax tibqa’ tipproduċi iktar propjetajiet reżidenzjali  biex il-parti l-kbira minnhom jibqgħu vojta. Hemm ħtieġa li din l-industrija tkun mgħejjuna tfittex toroq oħra. Hemm ħafna modi kif dan jista’ jsir.

Il-programm elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika għall-elezzjoni ta’ Marzu 2013 kien ċar fuq din il-materja. Kien l-uniku wieħed li tkellem ċar fuq l-industrija tal-bini u dwar il-ħtieġa li ma jkollnix iktar proġetti massiċċi ta’ kostruzzjoni reżidenzjali.

72,150 post residenzjali vojt ifisser ħela tar-riżorsi tal-pajjiż. Ifisser ħela ta’ art. Ifisser ħela ta’ kapital investit li seta’ faċilment ġie investit f’oqsma oħra iktar produttivi. Ifisser ħela ta’ riżorsi umani li huma dedikati biex jipproduċu bini destinat li jibqa’ vojt. Riżorsi umani li l-pajjiż jeħtieġ f’oqsma iktar produttivi. Għall-ġid tagħhom, għall-ġid ta’ familtom, għall-ġid tal-pajjiż.

L-industrija tal-bini għandha impatti negattivi ekonomiċi, soċjali u ambjentali.

Ir-reviżjoni tal-pjani lokali hi l-opportunita tad-deheb biex nibdew mexjin fi triq li fuq medda ta’ żmien hi inqas problematika. Triq iebsa u diffiċli. Triq ta’ sagrifiċċju.  Triq li tirrikonoxxi li ġaladarba hawn dan il-bini kollu vojt ma nistgħux nibqgħu nibnu bl-istess ritmu. Ifisser ukoll li jeħtieġ li jonqsu l-impieġi fl-industrija tal-bini u jinħolqu f’oqsma oħra.  Mhux faċli. Imma l-problema saret daqshekk kbira għax Gvern wara l-ieħor għaddas rasu fir-ramel, bħan-ngħam.

Hi l-unika triq li tagħmel sens. Għax ikunu ifisser li bħala pajjiż bdejna ġejjin f’sensina.

kif gie ippubblikat fuq iNews nhar l-Erbgha 4 ta’ Settembru 2013

Malta’s Nine Ghost Towns

The 2005 Census had revealed that 53,136 residential units in Malta were vacant. This was an increase of 17,413 units over the 35,723 vacant residential units identified during the 1995 Census. Faced with an increase of over 48 per cent in 10 years, a responsible government would have contained the development boundaries as existing supply can satisfy the demand for residential accommodation for many years to come.

In 2006, just nine months after the 2005 Census, the Nationalist Party-led Government defied common sense and, instead of applying the brakes, it further increased the possibilities for building development through three specific decisions. Through the rationalisation process, the PN-led Government extended the boundaries of development in all localities. Then it facilitated the construction of penthouses by relaxing the applicable conditions. If this were not enough, it increased the height limitations in various localities, intensifying development in existing built-up areas.

As a result of increasing the permissible heights, sunlight was blocked off low-lying residential buildings in the affected areas.

These residences were using sunlight to heat water through solar water heaters or to generate electricity through photovoltaic panels installed on their rooftops.

They can now discard their investments in alternative energy thanks to the PN-led Government’s land use policies!

The result of these myopic land use planning policies further increased the number of vacant properties, which is estimated as being in excess of 70,000 vacant residential units. (Mepa chairman Austin Walker, in an interview in June 2010, had referred to an estimated 76,000 vacant residential properties.)

The estimated total of vacant residential properties is equivalent to nine times the size of the residential area of Birkirkara, the largest locality in Malta, which, in 2005, had 7,613 residential units.

These ghost towns over the years have gobbled up resources to develop or upgrade an infrastructure that is underutilised. Spread all over the Maltese islands, these ghost towns have required new roads, extending the drainage system, extending the utility networks and street lighting as well as various other services provided by local councils.

The funds channelled to service ghost towns could have been better utilised to upgrade the infrastructure in the existing localities over the years.

The above justifies calls for an urgent revision of development boundaries through a reversal of the 2006 rationalisation exercise where land included for development in 2006 is still uncommitted.

Similarly, the relaxation of height limitations and the facilitated possibility to construct penthouses should be reversed forthwith.

All this is clearly in conflict with the efforts being made by the Government itself, assisted with EU funds, to increase the uptake of solar water heaters and photovoltaic panels.

I am aware of specific cases where decisions to install photovoltaic panels have had to be reversed as a result of the development permitted on adjacent property subsequent to the 2006 height relaxation decisions.

In its electoral manifesto for the forthcoming election, AD, the Green party, will be proposing a moratorium on large-scale development in addition to the reversal of the above policies as it is unacceptable that the construction industry keeps gobbling up land and, as a result, adding to the stock of vacant property.

The market has been unable to deal with the situation and, consequently, the matter has to be dealt by a government that is capable of taking tough decisions in the national interest.

Neither the PN nor the Labour Party are capable of taking such decisions as it has been proven time and again that both of them are hostages to the construction industry.

The slowdown of the activities of the construction industry is the appropriate time to consider the parameters of its required restructuring. It is clear that the construction industry has to be aided by the State to retrain its employees in those areas of operation where lack of skills exist.

There are three such areas: traditional building trades, road construction and maintenance as well as marine engineering.

Traditional building skills are required primarily to facilitate rehabilitation works of our village cores and to properly maintain our historical heritage. Our roads require more properly-trained personnel so that standards of road construction and maintenance are improved and works carried out in time. Our ports and coastal defences require a well-planned maintenance programme and various other adaptation works as a result of the anticipated sea-level variations caused by climate change.

The construction industry employs about 11,000 persons. It is imperative that its restructuring is taken in hand immediately.

In addition to halting more environmental damage, a long overdue restructuring will also serve to mitigate the social impacts of the slowdown on the families of its employees through retraining for alternative jobs both in the construction industry itself and elsewhere.

The so-called ‘social policy’ of the PN and the PL have neglected these families for years on end.

 

published in The Times on 29 September 2012

B’nuċċali ta’ żiemel

Vanessa Macdonald  tikkwota lil Francis Vassallo Chairman tal-Bank Bawag li qed jgħid illi dewmien fil-ħruġ ta’ permessi ta’ żvilupp mill-MEPA qed jheddu lis-suq tal-propjeta għax d-dewmien ifisser flus (interessi jew inkella opportunity cost kif jgħidu l-ekonomisti).

 

Dawk li qed iħarsu lejn il-propjeta biss bħala investiment ekonomiku qed jagħmlu żball kbir. Qegħdin iħarsu sal-pont ta’ imneħirhom meta ma jirrealizzawx il-ħsara kbira ambjentali li qed issir b’dak li jsejħulu żvilupp. Pajjiżna m’għandniex bżonn ta’ iktar bini. Għandna il-fuq minn 53,000 residenza vojta (ċifri sal-2005).

 

Meta l-Gvern iddikjara li poġġa l-iżvilupp sostenibbli bħala l-mira ewlenija tiegħu fil-mixja biex isib tarf tal-iżbilanċ ambjentali li qiegħed jifni lil dan il-pajjiż suppost li qed jagħti risposta lil dawk kollha li jħarsu lejn l-ekonomija b’nuċċali ta’ żiemel. Ta’ l-anqas nittama. Għax hekk jixraqlu dan il-pajjiż.