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GSD sets out ‘bold and sustainable’ housing policies, Govt reacts

The GSD has outlined a series of “bold and sustainable” housing policies which, it claimed, will strike a balance between providing affordable homes and ensuring the community is not burdened by debt.

The party’s proposals include means testing applicants in order to ensure that buyers purchase at the percentage share that is coherent with the household income.

Additionally, the GSD’s plans would see the introduction of thresholds into the lease which would oblige homeowners to purchase government held shares as and when the household income increases.

According to Elliott Phillips, Shadow Minister for Housing, this will create a long-term sustainable policy which should result in a high return of subsidy over a 30-year plan.

The GSD said it would also release for tender all the empty properties in the Upper Town which can be refurbished and moved into relatively promptly, whilst stimulating urban renewal in the historical parts of Gibraltar.

“In this way we will ensure that all Gibraltarians are able to own a home whilst simultaneously providing social housing for the most needy,” Mr Phillips said.

“A community is marked by the way in which it provides for the most needy and the GSD have a long record of protecting those most in need,” he added.

This was the latest salvo in a row between the GSD and the Government on affordable housing and follows the Government’s announcement regarding plans to construct 665 flats on the eastside.

The GSD’s latest comments were, however, slapped down by the Government who described the Oppositions remarks as “baffling” and “incoherent”.

“We have a social and moral duty to create and manage expectations prudently, sustainably and in the best interest of the community we serve today and that of tomorrow,” the GSD said in a statement, adding: “We cannot play with the electorate’s needs in return for votes.”

“Affordable housing must be managed sensitively, which means providing homes in the best way possible for potential purchasers, whilst providing the best deal for the ordinary taxpayer.”

According to the GSD, it sold on average over 30% of its properties on a 50/50 basis when in government.

But, it added, in comparison the GSLP/Liberals sold on average under 90% of properties on a 50/50 basis.

“There is a stark difference between the two Governments in terms of the percentage ultimately subsidised by the ordinary taxpayer in Gibraltar,” the GSD said.

The GSD insisted that it will always ensure that the wider taxpayer’s interests are protected.
It added that it remains committed to looking at ways in which to deliver homes within the affordable reach of the community.

“We can only do this by being courageous and imaginative,” the party said.

“Certainly not by encouraging a culture of expectation where applicants for co-ownership must join the social housing waiting list as soon as you turn 18, regardless if you are working or studying, and eventually you will be able to purchase an apartment.”

“Social housing for the most in need is different to co-ownership,” the party said.

“The Government are raising huge expectations by sending mixed messages that applicants will be able to buy an affordable home for the price of a parking space.”

The GSD added that this does very little to manage the expectations of low income families and the young.

“Our people need support and help by providing affordable homes at affordable prices and not repeated and rehashed housing policies from three years ago which fail to tackle the real issues of many families and young people in our community,” the GSD said.

GOVERNMENT RESPONDS

In hitting back later the same day the Government said the GSD’s statement demonstrates “how out of touch the GSD is with reality and it also belies that actually they give the local housing needs little real importance.”

For the first eight years in government, the GSD did not lay a brick to provide housing for anyone, whether for purchase or rental, the Government said in a statement.

“Their rush to build in the end resulted in the poor workmanship that can be seen in their construction, particularly in estates such as Cumberland Terraces where the tax payer continues to foot the bill for necessary remedial works all of which could have been avoided,” it added.

“This administration has already provided over 1,000 flats at Beach View Terraces and Mons Calpe Lodge, provided two blocks of purpose-built flats for the elderly at Charles Bruzon House and Sea Master Lodge and have already announced a further 1,500 flats in three new estates and former MOD properties.”

“The GSD should be ashamed of proclaiming their provision of 2,000 flats in four terms in office, this Government has already provided 50% of that figure in its first term and committed more than double in its second term. By the end of this Government’s second term in office it will have provided more flats than the GSD did in double that time.”

“In addition to that, this administration has embarked on an ambitious project of urban renewal of pre-war properties in the upper town.”

The Government insisted it has been very proactive in identifying many properties that were empty during the GSD years and many have been sold at tender to provide further housing.

To date, a total of 18 tenders have resulted in the provision of 118 dwellings.

The Ministry for Housing said it continues to co-ordinate the decanting of pre-war properties for tender.

“Essentially what differentiates the GSD from this Government is basic ideology,” No.6 said.

“The GSD believe that those who have more money should have an advantage over those who do not.”

“It is a basic socialist principle that everyone should have an equal chance and that is why those who may wish to purchase in the affordable housing schemes at 50% of the purchase price will not be disadvantaged over those who may wish to and are able to purchase more.”

“The most baffling argument proposed by the GSD is that young adults be precluded from joining the housing waiting list, essentially preventing them of the chance to get into the system to aspire to any type of housing.”

“This shows very little understanding of how the system works as, obviously, those who will be given priority are those who have been on the list for longer or have otherwise been assessed as having an urgent need.”