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Maltese tenants losing rental market ‘bidding war’

People forced into homelessness

A young mother had ended up sleeping in her car with her two children and pet dog. Photo: Shutterstock

A young mother had ended up sleeping in her car with her two children and pet dog. Photo: Shutterstock

Would-be tenants at the lower end of the income ladder are being outbid by groups of eight or more foreigners who have no qualms about living in overcrowded apartments meant for two or three, according to the Federation of Estate Agents.

Simon Debono, who heads the federation, told Times of Malta he had seen countless single mothers, and other vulnerable people forced into homelessness as the property market spiralled out of control.

“We get Maltese people with budgets of say €200-300 a month. There’s just nothing available at that price anymore. Meanwhile, foreigners are coming to us in groups of eight or more, and living in small apartments,” he said.

“Maltese people are being priced out of the market, they are being pushed into poverty and homelessness, and all this when the country is supposed to be going through ‘the best of times’.”

We get Maltese people with budgets of say €200-300 a month. There’s just nothing available at that price anymore.

In a statement earlier on Tuesday, the federation said it had looked on aghast at the “public drubbing” given to a local person who had just become homeless. 

It was reacting to news report on State broadcaster TVM that a young mother had ended up sleeping in her car with her two children and pet dog.

According to the broadcaster, complex social problems had resulted in the mother, who earned €500 a month, not making ends meet. To make matters worse, she had been refused entry to public shelters for, among other reasons, having a pet.

“I’ve been running around with my children. I take them to the beach to use public showers. And, to escape the sun I take them to shopping complexes. At night, we go to the beach and then sleep in the car,” the mother, identified as Jacqueline was reported saying.

She has since been offered temporary accommodation by a civilian.

The broadcaster subsequently ran another report quoting the Housing Parliamentary Secretariat denying that the woman had been refused a place to sleep in a public shelter.

The Secretariat, headed by Roderick Galdes, went on to say that the woman had been offered temporary shelter but had refused it herself. The federation said it was in extreme poor taste that rather than assisting the woman, the authorities were focused on calling her a liar.

“She is a victim, not a political opponent. It is not the job of any government department to abuse of the massive power of State incumbency to humiliate women who are continuously losing the roof over their heads and ending up with their children on the street,” the federation said. 

The number of homeless, the federation warned, was only going to increase, “and dramatically”. “Prices of property, both rental and for sale in Malta, have now gone up to beyond that which the average Maltese can afford,” the federation said.

This, it added, was due, in part, to the “sudden and massive influx of foreigners” that was not accompanied by adequate planning to ensure enough apartments were available to accommodate them.

The federation also lamented that all the government boards set up to advise on the housing crisis are infiltrated by multiple members of “that organisation whose leaders drive Ferraris” – a reference to the Malta Developers’ Association.

 “The organisations sensitive to the plight of the Maltese being disposed of a roof over their head, have been covertly eliminated from the boards,” the federation said.

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