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Fresh exchanges in row over Eastside and rental housing

Eyleen Gomez

The Gibraltar Government and the GSD continued to snipe at each other over rental housing and plans to develop the Eastside reclamation area.

The GSD yesterday maintained its position that the Government should have insisted on the inclusion of rental housing schemes when seeking expressions of interest to develop the site.

It brushed off as “a red herring and bad politics” government criticism that the GSD itself had not required rental housing when it had sought to develop the site while in government.

“Making historical references is a futile exercise,” the Opposition said.

“If the GSD were to descend to a ‘tit for tat’ exchange it could say that the Government’s £1 billion announcement of the now defunct Blue Water project in 2015 did not contain a commitment to rental housing.”

“The party asks the Government, however, to live in the present and deal with the issues which affect people, of which rental housing is one.”

But the Government countered that the GSD was now calling for rental housing on the site despite not having committed to that in its own manifesto at the last election.

“The point is that the GSD Opposition are simply playing to gallery,” No.6 Convent Place said in the latest in a string of statements on the same issue.

“They did not identify the Eastside for this category of housing when they were in Government, neither did they do so in their Development Plan, neither did they do so in their own proposals for the Eastside, neither did they do so at the last general election barely nine months ago.”

“All that the Government has said, is that when an Opposition behaves as if it were all things to all men, it is inevitable that inconsistencies and contradictions will be exposed. This is what has happened with their statement on the Eastside.”

The GSD said it was committed to building government rental accommodation because it believed there was a need for such housing.

It reminded the government that it had build the Mid-Harbours estate for that reason, and that this was the first rental estate since the construction of Varyl Begg estate in the 1970s.

“No amount of obfuscation will change that,” the GSD said.

For the Opposition, the GSLP/Liberals’ commitment to rental stock was “less clear”.

It said the GSLP/Liberals had committed to build between 300 and 500 units for rental during the last election, accusing the government of “ambivalence” in respect of sites including the Queen’s Cinema plot and the Eastside reclamation.

“The GSD encourages the Government once again to seriously reconsider the basis on which it is inviting expressions of interest for the Eastside project by including a commitment to build Government rental accommodation,” said Damon Bossino, the party’s spokesman on planning.

“There is a pressing social need which needs to be addressed.”

But the Government hit back and said the GSD was “jumping the gun” because it may yet be that proposals be received for the Eastside that include rental stock.

The process does not close until September and “nobody knows what will be forthcoming at this early stage".

No.6 said the GSLP/Liberals had been elected back into office on a manifesto that set out its policies which would now be implemented, “not the views and the policies of the Opposition.”

“Everybody knows that there is a release of properties into the Government housing rental stock with every development of affordable or elderly rental accommodation,” No.6 said.

“Indeed, the Chief Minister has already made it clear in Parliament that this requirement for rental homes would be clearer once the sale of hundreds of affordable homes currently underway have been completed.”

“The Opposition is putting the cart before the horse.”