NEWS | Sunday, 25 November 2007

Harry Vassallo challenges PM, Opposition leader to act quickly on property crisis

Charlot Zahra

Alternattiva Demokratika (AD) chairperson Harry Vassallo challenged the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition to explain to the country how they propose to address the challenge of vacant property combined with very high property prices following the next general election.
Speaking during a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Sliema on Friday, Vassallo, flanked by party spokesperson on the economy and tourism Edward Fenech, said: “Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are asked whether they feel any slight remorse for the recent death in Sliema of a tenant in a controlled rent property.”
Vassallo attributed these accidents to the “political paralysis of the other two parties” with tenants being kept in a piteous housing situation. “Such events are accidents waiting to happen,” he insisted.
He said the silence from both the Nationalist and Labour parties following the publication of the Census 2005 – which showed that 28 per cent of properties in Malta and 48 per cent of properties in Gozo are empty – indicated that “both parties either have no idea how to address this challenge or live in fear of taking the country into their confidence on the measures they will certainly adopt on taking office after the election”.
“The same silence covers the issue of rent reform in which the government explains its paralysis by the unwillingness of the Opposition to co-operate on a major national issue ignored to the detriment of thousands of families for over six decades,” Vassallo said.
He explained that nobody could reasonably expect owners of controlled properties to make necessary repairs when they are prevented from earning a fair and reasonable rent.
Recalling the death of Riccardo Cesare seven years ago when his substandard residence at Capuchins Street in Floriana collapsed on him as he returned home to get a pack of cigarettes, Vassallo said: “Political stagnation was in some degree a contributory factor in the death of a Sliema tenant this month just as it was with regard to the death in another person in Floriana some years ago.”
In a country in which 53,000 properties lie vacant it should be within the capabilities of even the most incompetent of governments to see to the creation of a working rental market. “It should be easily possible to be just with both owners and tenants when such a vast amount of surplus resources are available.
“The results of the census clearly show that there is absolutely no need for anybody to be thrown into the streets as the Prime Minister had alleged in response to AD’s demands for a comprehensive reform,” the party chairperson concluded.


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