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News • September 05 2004

Gonzi rules out rent laws reform in anti-poverty plan

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi yesterday ruled out reforming current rent laws as part of his government’s action plan on poverty and social exclusion, although he admitted that the 1995 “radical” amendments did not serve as an incentive for people to rent empty houses.
Speaking during the launch of the action plan yesterday, Gonzi said there was little the government could do to tackle soaring property prices apart from the existing social housing schemes. He said the rent laws were changed in 1995 and did not need to be changed again even though they were not “as successful” as government wanted them to be.
“We need to find the reasons why people are not renting houses, we have to address that,” Gonzi said. “What needs to be changed (in the law) is the conditions for those who rent property on pre-1995 conditions as they are unfair on the owners.”
Setting the tone for reforms yet to come, the prime minister said that all social welfare measures had to undergo “an overhaul”.
“All welfare measures we have reduce the risks of people from falling below the poverty line by half, so we have a successful welfare system, but it is built on schemes launched decades ago and it is useful and essential to update it, to make sure that our country’s limited resources are used in the best way possible.”
Minister for the Family and Social Solidarity Dolores Cristina said the action plan aims to increase the overall employment rate, particularly of women, combating school absenteeism and illiteracy among youth and adults as well as providing affordable housing for poor people.
The plan was drawn up following extensive consultation with NGOs, religious organisation and government departments and is meant to pave the ground for a wider national development plan to be announced next year.
The plan states that inactive women are at a higher risk of poverty than inactive men (19 per cent as opposed to 10 per cent). Only eight per cent of single mothers hold full time employment in contrast to 36 per cent of single fathers.
A key priority identified by the plan is to promote public awareness of children’s rights and to empower young citizens.
Persons in rented housing have a 29 per cent risk of falling below the poverty line, which is 2.5 times more than the home owners, with the plan promoting adequate and affordable housing to vulnerable groups.
The plan also targets Cottonera and the Grand Harbour Area, where 19.5 per cent of all dwellings are vacant and 39 per cent are dilapidated. Children from the area have a higher level of school absenteeism.





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