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Are properties in Malta too big? - Frank Salt

Smaller properties will cut down costs and save land space

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

I am going to start this article with comments, which some readers might not agree with, and I myself would be grouped among these people if I was reading it. Complicated? Not really.

We Maltese live in properties that are much too large.

We drive cars that are too large. We use trucks and buses that are too large and we wonder why our country is overbuilt and our roads overcrowded. But that’s another topic, that could be discussed on its own.

Before the 1960s, the Maltese did not normally build or own their own properties.  Their properties were leased on 17-year leases and were normally properties that were once used by the British forces when they were living here.

Then, in the late 1960s, the Maltese started building their own homes and developers started building houses and apartments for resale to locals and foreigners.

What happened was that for some reason or another the Maltese wanted large properties. The minimum was three double bedrooms, two bathrooms, sitting dining room, living room, and kitchen/breakfast.  Houses would have a spare w/c downstairs and probably a garage. All rooms were independent and there were corridors everywhere all taking up valuable space.

The average size was approximately 150 square metres. That is big, compared to most of the other countries in the world.

Apartments were very large and villas were enormous. And our country is so small.

It did not make sense and this has continued up to this day, with perhaps a slight reduction of the size in apartments.

Do we wonder why we are so overbuilt? 

You can’t suddenly change what there already is, but you can change things for the future

Those of you, who may not agree with me on this, look around you and calculate the size of your own property. How much of it is really necessary?

Imagine if we lived in smaller properties, a block of six large apartments would be a block of 12 apartments. Imagine the decreased area we would need to house the same number of people.

I can hear people saying that it is impossible to live in much smaller properties.

Well, let us see.

The other day, I looked around a mini-suite on the P&O cruise liner Oceana.

It seemed to be very comfortable and airy. It had a separate sitting area, double bedroom, bathroom with shower, spare w/c, a clothes closet, and two balconies.

Total area: 38 square metres.

There were fitted cupboards everywhere, and I thought to myself, that people, single or a couple could live quite comfortably in such a space. Add another bedroom, say 16 square metres, and for 54 square metres there would be a liveable apartment.

Let us say 60 square metres to round up the figure. That is almost half, or one third the size of the ones being built today.

Impossible? 

I don’t think so. Ask any good Maltese architect whether they could design an apartment that size, with all fitted cupboards necessary for very comfortable living and I am sure that the answer will be of course they can. The resulting selling price would be much less and the area covered per apartment would be much smaller, resulting in less area used for development.

Makes a lot of sense to me.

But will the Maltese accept smaller apartments? The younger ones will soon get used to a different way of living, especially if the properties are well fitted and designed, and they would be very much more affordable.

Older Maltese would maybe find it difficult to adjust, but the older they get the idea of a smaller home could be very attractive. You will always have people who wish to live in larger premises, but the vast majority of property built, and which occupy the largest area of building land, are owned by people who would maybe be happy to live in smaller premises.

You can’t suddenly change what there already is, but you can change things for the future.

These smaller properties would be much more acceptable to rent to foreigners, and being less expensive will be more affordable to rent. This will help tremendously in our ever-increasing rental market.

It would be very interesting if the Planning Authority looked again into the size of properties allowed to be built, thus allowing smaller ones to be placed on the market. It would be very interesting for a deve-loper to give instructions to an architect, to design a block of apartments using this new size parameter, and seeing how much less space would be needed for the deve-lopment and how many more open areas could be achieved.

Also, what would be even more interesting should be the lower prices asked by the developer when the smaller properties are placed on the market.

We are a very small country. Very small.  We can’t afford to build all over it. What is done, unfortunately is done, but the future can be changed.

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