The Government’s announcement in relation to the building of Hassans Centenary Terraces, is unashamedly a re-run of their previous press conference presented last year and a repeat of promises made to the electorate in their now mothballed Blue Waters Project.
Despite first announcing the building of Hassans Centenary Terraces as part of the now abandoned Blue Water Project in 2015, the Government again announced in September 2017, with much fanfare, the building of Hassans Centenary Terraces, where they stated homes would be available from the Summer of 2019. The public will not be fooled a third time by this transparent attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of people who have been waiting years for a home. Homes should have been available in the Summer of 2019 and now the Government, in an extraordinary déjà vu moment, say that they will commence construction in the Summer of 2019, with homes being ready by 2022! It is also understood that the prices in the new development are above the historic prices of recent low cost developments and therefore the Government will need to explain to the public how they arrived at the prices up to £339,000. These prices will not be affordable to many young families and single parents and we expect the Government to explain its rationale for excluding people from this opportunity.
The GSD have been the strongest proponents for the building of homes for our people and we will always support homes that are truly affordable and accessible to members of our community. The GSD have closely monitored and analysed previous schemes and have developed an exciting new housing policy which has, at its core, fairness and sustainability as its guiding principal. We will make further detailed announcements closer to the General Election.
The Government’s announcement last week fails to address the real concerns of the many who cannot afford to buy into these developments. The GSD continue to receive dozens of complaints every month concerning empty flats, very poor maintenance works and substandard living conditions, which is completely at odds with the presentation of Gibraltar as one of the wealthiest countries in the world. We have reports of people living on the bread line and that cannot be right. We also understand that the tax payer is footing the bill. Therefore any subsidy which provides for the most needy must recognise that whilst some in Gibraltar prosper, not everyone is able to buy their own home on a 100% or 50% basis. Before the tax payer commits to spending many tens of millions of pounds, the Government need to demonstrate that they have done their homework. If the GSD were in office we would start by conducting a full audit of our current housing stock and assess need within our community on a means‘ tested basis. The current system is unfit for modern purposes. For example, why should parents feel that it is a rite of passage for their children to be added to the Housing List immediately after attaining the age of 18, in order to be eligible for affordable housing? Allocation for homes for rent,based on real social need, must be distinguished from the provision of affordable housing and not lumped into the same category. The Government are simply looking down the wrong end of the telescope. The Housing List should be designed to cater for those who cannot afford to buy and be allocated a home from the Government rental stock. The GSD, since 2015, has supported the means testing of all housing and come the next election, we would propose a complete overhaul of eligibility criteria to ensure housing is allocated more fairly and targeted to those most in need.
Whilst we must always recognise the need and provision for social homes, we must pursue an agenda that allows as many citizens as possible to access the opportunity to buy their own home, on an affordable basis. That means that we can look at innovative approaches which supports young people and for those whosecircumstances change, for example divorce and separation. As people’s circumstances improve, the system should encourage the buying out of the Government share on a piecemeal basis to lessen the impact on the tax payer, thereby creating a sustainable through put of homes and reserving Government rental housing for those in real social need. We also need to think outside the box and allow people to buy at different percentages which allows for greater flexibility and better access to homes.
Shadow Minister for Housing Elliott Phillips MP said:
“We believe that, with the benefit of our experience, we can evolve the housing lists in their current form into a modern and workable response to the allocation of homes. It will take time but we are committed to taking pragmatic and sustainable steps to achievingtwo goals namely: (1) providing a real opportunity to buy a home at truly affordable prices; and (2) ensuring that there is a ready supply of housing rental stock to provide for those who forwhatever the reason, are unable to access affordable homes.
Waiting 8 years for the allocation of a home should be a thing of the past. The Government’s further reannouncement of the same housing project is a desperate scramble to garner support at a time when they have forgotten the many who aspire to purchase homes at affordable prices. The announcement represents a lost opportunity to grasp the nettle and provide real housing solutions to many living in dilapidated, overcrowded and in some instances,squalid conditions.”
The call by Action for Housing is fully supported by the GSD. The GSD have repeated their requests in and outside Parliament and we again call for the Government to formally set out its stall on the promised homes for rental. The silence from the Government on this call is deafening and unless the Government confirm the position without further delay the public will be left with no doubt that the Government have no intention of building homes for the most needy in our community.