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Bishops warn of a 'social emergency' in housing

Pastoral letter warns developers not to be blinded by greed

Malta’s bishops have urged politicians to set aside partisan differences and work together to find solutions to tame a housing crisis that they believe is growing into a “social emergency”.

In a pastoral letter to mark the feast of Maria Bambina, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, Gozo Bishop Mario Grech and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Galea-Curmi discussed growing concerns about an escalating housing crisis, with property prices spiralling upwards beyond the reach of most ordinary citizens.

“Families and the elderly cannot meet the rapidly escalating rent crisis and consequently are ending up on the streets,” the bishops warned. “young people... do not qualify for a bank loan... people going through a crisis rely on the rental market.”

The bishops said politicians could not play partisan politics with the issue, and called for rent regulation.

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“A timely regulation of the rental market and provision for sustainable housing would give the people who are worst hit by this crisis, the dignity of having a suitable roof over their heads,” they wrote.

They also called for landlords and developers to not be blinded by greed when setting prices for their properties – and warned them against hypocritical shows of generosity.

“What does it profit you in paying foreigners a pittance an hour for their work while at the same time depriving them of their rights; or what does it profit you in turning entire families out on the streets in order to make an alternative income of thousands a month, all the while flaunting your generosity by donating substantial sums to your parish?”

Tenants, too, had responsibilities, the bishops told Catholic faithful. They had to pay their dues on time, take good care of their properties and not abuse of social housing or welfare hand-outs.

While noting that the Church housed more than 400 migrants, the bishops urged ecclesiastical communities to do all they could to alleviate housing pressures.

“We must however make a greater effort to avoid being conquered by a culture that only seeks profit, and be prepared to make less lucrative choices in order to help those who are in difficulty,” the bishops said.
“Today more than ever, the Church needs to lead by example.”

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