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Covid not to blame for Government housing failures, GSD says

The GSD has said construction delays on the affordable housing projects cannot be excused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The party called the Gibraltar Government’s statement on Monday, which said Covid-19 will delay completion, is a “stunning rewriting of history” as the projects were announced in 2017.

The Government announced the three projects at Hassans Centenary Terraces, Bob Peliza Mews and Chatham Views with great fanfare in 2017, the GSD said.

“It was an announcement clearly designed to garner votes in the run-up to the 2019 general election,” the party said.

“The Government promised then that hundreds of those flats would be ready as soon as the summer of 2019.”

“That was well before the onset of the first Covid lockdown in March 2020.”

The GSD said that years on none of these homes have been delivered and in two of these sites construction has not even started, the party added the updated timetable is not new either.

“It has simply taken the Government six months to admit what the GSD has been saying was the likely timescale,” the GSD said.

“As far back as April the GSD pointed out that the information being provided by Government in answer to GSD questions in Parliament meant that the projects would not be complete for years and probably not till 2025 or beyond.”

The party said latest press release is not an announcement of anything new, and instead is “the Government bowing to the inevitable reality that their failures will not lead to completions for years.”

Leader of the Opposition Keith Azopardi said the Government cannot accept its failure even now when two of the three projects haven’t even started and they are years behind schedule.

“There has to be something else to blame and it is Covid even though Mr Picardo announced the developments of Hassans Centenary Terraces, Bob Peliza Mews and Chatham Views in 2017 well before Covid and on the basis they would partly be completed in 2019 –in other words well before the pandemic,” he said.

“Additionally, everyone will have noticed that construction continued in other private housing developments during Covid because the construction industry was one of the few sectors kept open under the lockdowns.”

Mr Azopardi said the Government has failed after announcing in 2017 that there would be partial completion in 2019.

“The three developments were nowhere near completion by the 2019 election,” he said.

Construction on Bob Peliza Mews and Chatham Views had not started in 2019.

“They have still not even started now,” Mr Azopardi said.

“As we stated months ago actual completion of all three developments is unlikely till 2025 or even 2026.”

“Mr Picardo is failing again by not accepting they got it wrong. He cannot rewrite history on his promises.”

“He is also failing the hundreds of disappointed families that are affected by the delays and are stretched financially or have been kept hanging for years because of the failures.”

Mr Azopardi added the housing schemes are all massively behind schedule and hundreds of families have been let down.

“Families were promised by Government that they would be in their homes by now,” he said.

“The promises were hollow and they’ve failed in delivering them.”

“Mr Picardo’s statements that they are ‘moving as fast as possible’ or that they will not ‘suffer one day’s delay that can be avoided’ or that the delay does not arise from their political management of the projects is just more hollow talk from a Government that cannot be believed and is defensively trying to blame anyone or anything for their failures.”

The GSD said if the Government had done what it said it would do the projects would have been largely complete by the time Covid hit Gibraltar.

“It will not be lost on anyone that the construction industry was one of the few industries that continued despite Covid with private developments that were ongoing before Covid being finished in 2020 and this year,” the GSD said.

“It is therefore not credible to blame Covid for the lack of completion or commencement of these works before 2020 and not that credible to consider it was an insurmountable hurdle after 2020.”

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