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Action for Housing highlights plight of medical priority applicants, prompting GSD call for ‘radical’ policy overhaul

The most vulnerable and needy members of society are among those who are being failed by the housing allocations system, campaign group Action for Housing said this week, prompting the Opposition to call for a “radical” overhaul of Gibraltar’s housing policy.

The group was reacting after Housing Minister Steven Linares told Parliament recently that 176 rental flats had been allocated during the pandemic.

While Action for Housing welcomed the allocation of those flats to applicants on waiting lists, it raised concern that many priority applicants were still waiting.

Among them are applicants on the Medical A and Medical A+ lists, who had been waiting “for a very long time”, often in substandard accommodation, despite healthcare issues that should expedite their applications.

Action for Housing said it failed to understand why such applicants were still waiting, describing their situation as “alarming”.

It also reminded Mr Linares that last November, the group had highlighted the circumstances of some applicants who had been high on the waiting lists for some time – “in some cases during years” – but had not yet been given allocations.

Mr Linares has not explained why this is.

“As we have said publicly on various occasions, positions on the lists move up very slowly, and even when these reach positions which are within reach of allocations these do not happen,” Action for Housing’s Henry Pinna said.

“It seems to us that the allocation system is failing a number of applicants, and regrettably some of the most vulnerable and needy members of our society.”

‘SHAMEFUL’

In raising its concerns Action for Housing, working with GBC, highlighted the specific case of 70-year old El Khalil Lyaacoubi, who has lived in Gibraltar for four decades and resides in poor conditions despite serious health issues.

On Tuesday, the Opposition said his case was “a shameful indictment” of the Gibraltar Government’s housing allocation policy and just one example of many other cases of people living in bad conditions.

It also highlighted the fact that many medical and social priority cases were not benefiting from the recent allocation of houses in the way they should, the GSD said.

“It is unbelievable and shocking that in 21st century Gibraltar there are people living in the squalid and wholly unacceptable conditions that El Khalil Lyaacoubi is living in,” said Keith Azopardi, the Leader of the Opposition.

“This is totally appalling to any right-minded viewer.”

“It shows that little has been done to tackle the issues raised by a similar Viewpoint programme more than two years ago.”

“That programme was revealing and a warning shot that should have alerted Government to turn its mind to the priority re-housing of some individuals.”

“If a community cannot house the most needy and raise them from these squalid conditions, it is failing.”

“Clearly the Government’s housing policy is failing if these cases have still not been tackled.”

“The time has come to do a comprehensive overhaul of Housing Policy and of the criteria to deal with how cases are allocated in a radical way.”

The Shadow Housing Minister, Edwin Reyes, added: “Last month the Government congratulated itself on the fact that it allocated 176 houses this year.”

“Instead of taking a self-congratulatory position the question they should be answering is why they haven’t done more to allocate housing to the most deserving medical and social cases.”

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