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Govt and GSD in tit-for-tat row over housing

Photo by Johnny Bugeja

The Gibraltar Government on Wednesday accused the GSD of exploiting housing issues for political gain, sparking a tit-for-tat exchange as the GSD insisted that the Government had made a U-turn on electoral promises to build rental homes.

The GSD had earlier this week accused the Government of “failing to deliver” on its manifesto commitments to provide housing rental stock for the elderly population and the general public.

This followed an interview with GBC where the Minister for Housing, Steven Linares, said the Government had “not committed itself” to rental housing, and commitments in the 2015 and 2019 manifesto relate to rental housing for the elderly.

The Government on Wednesday reiterated “ongoing commitment” to increasing rental housing stock for the elderly and for the general population.

A spokesman for No.6 Convent Place said a comprehensive review of the Housing Act is to be concluded by the end of the year, as announced in the Minister for Housing’s budget speech.

“Projects are already underway to construct even more rental housing for the elderly, and therefore to release existing rental accommodation to the general stock,” the spokesman added.

“Our commitments on Affordable Housing also have a significant positive impact on the general rental stock and enable social mobility as families grow.”

“The Government is actively pursuing policies that make the best use of existing stock and also of Gibraltar’s limited land and resources in a way that improves the lives of the public that elected it.”

For his part, Mr Linares said the Government is “actively working” on increasing the availability of rental housing across the board by “thinking outside the box”.

“It is not efficient or sustainable to simply build more,” Mr Linares said.

“If we are to construct, we must do so effectively.”

“This Government is clear on its commitments and is demonstrably implementing them.”

“The GSD have not only jumped on [Action for Housing] Henry Pinna’s directionless bandwagon, but in doing so they have revealed the narrowness of their thinking.”

But in its reply, the GSD said the Government’s position on rental housing is “nothing other than a weak and ineffective attempt at deflection from the obvious reneging of their now twice repeated manifesto commitment to build extra housing for government rental”.

In a statement issued hours later, the GSD said: “Last week’s GBC interview with the Minister for Housing was clear – he said that the government was not committing itself to rental housing and would only build for the elderly.”

“The 2011 and more importantly, 2019 manifestos committed them to constructing more rental housing stock both for the elderly and the general housing list.”

“This glaring departure from what was promised at election time to what is being said now has quite properly been exposed by the GSD.”

“The government has been given an opportunity to apologise and correct the record.”

“What it has done, however, is confirm that they are U-turning big-time from their twice repeated manifesto commitment.”

“They are clearly saying they will not be building new rental housing stock for those on the general housing list despite their original commitment to do so.”

Damon Bossino, the shadow minister for Housing, said: “The Government cannot get away from the fact that this is a significant change of tack.”

“And they should have the decency of at least admitting the drastic change in policy so that a mature political debate can be had on a proper and honest footing and not on the basis of falsehoods.”

Last night the Government said the GSD’s latest statement is “evidence that they want to exploit housing issues for political gain”.

“Their statement adds nothing of substance and merits no further response,” the Government spokesman said.

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