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Social housing should be rented only to those in need, until they get back on their feet - Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat called for an end to the entitlement mentality within the housing sector today, insisting that social housing was meant for those who were most in need.

Briefly addressing the Labour Party’s Annual General Conference, which this evening focused on rent, the Prime Minister said he did not believe that everyone had a divine right to be hosted in social housing.

Most people in Malta, he added, owned a place after working hard for it, or taking out a mortgage.

Social housing should be rented out to tenants in need until they could get back on their feet, Dr Muscat said.

Insisting that the culture of entitlement should be challenged, Dr Muscat noted that there were still grandchildren who expected to inherit social housing apartments from their grandparents.

In his address, Dr Muscat meanwhile noted that the government should examine the possibility of introducing a system whereby renting contracts were registered in a bid to protect landlords and tenants.

The Labour leader also commented on what appeared to be a cultural shift from home ownership to property rental.

A decrease in the number of people owning a property today meant that future pensioners will not have any property investment on which to rely on, he said, noting that more people should be encouraged to buy their own house.

TURNING RENT CHALLENGE INTO AN OPPORTUNITY

Addressing the same conference, Family Minister Michael Farrugia said the government was evaluating the way forward to turn the rent challenge into an opportunity.

This could require legal changes to protect the tenants and landlords, he said. Dr Farrugia noted that sometimes, no matter the available opportunities and incentives, it remained difficult to change the mentality of some people.

During his address, the Family Minister announced that excavation works will soon start on a new social housing site in Attard.

Other speakers called for long-term solutions, including the rent stabilisation policy, which would assure tenants that their rent will not increase more than a specific amount over a specific period of time, explained Philip Von Brockdorff, who heads the university's Economics Department.

Meanwhile, anti poverty campaigner Charles Miceli called for short-term solutions for those who could not keep up with their rent despite efforts to maintain a continuous income.

He thanked the government for opening two emergency shelters, which, he noted, were already full up.

Mr Miceli also spoke of people who moved from one village to another in a bid to afford increasing rent. This meant that there were children who were continuously being uprooted from their school and separated from their friends, he explained.

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