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GSD slams Govt over housing ‘smokescreens’

Photos by Johnny Bugeja

The Gibraltar Government has sought to turn concerns about the “appalling” conditions faced by some housing applicants on medical and social lists into the wider issue of affordable housing, the GSD said yesterday, describing this as “smokescreen after smokescreen.”

The Opposition was reacting after the government defended its housing record by insisting it had built hundreds of affordable homes in recent years and had allocated 176 rental properties during the past year despite Covid-19 pressures, including 61 for medical and social applicants.

The government said its construction of affordable homes, in many cases, freed up rental homes, adding that there was a finite stock of such properties which meant the housing list could not be eliminated overnight.

But the GSD was unimpressed with the response, adding that few people on the medical and social lists were able to access affordable housing.

It noted that campaign group Action for Housing had highlighted the need for rental homes for the most vulnerable applicants.

“This is not about new estates like Hassans Centenary Terraces, Bob Peliza Mews or Chatham Views which in any event are hardly great successes,” said Keith Azopardi, the Leader of the Opposition.

“The Government announced these with great fanfare in 2017 and promised would see first completions by 2019.”

“Those estates have seen breach of promise after breach of promise on completion dates which are now said not to happen before 2023.”

“No keys have been handed to purchasers. Those particular failures will have disappointed hundreds of purchasers but either way it does not help Mr Lyaacoubi [whose case was highlighted by Action for Housing last week] or similar cases on the medical or social list get allocated housing today.”

“It is a classic smokescreen of the worst kind.”

“The issue is how people on the medical or social list who are today enduring appalling housing conditions are helped now.”

The GSD said the “real issue” was what steps the government was taking to provide decent housing for vulnerable applicants, “given that only 61 from 176 allocations were from the medical and social lists in 2020.”

It also hit back at the government for “personalising” its statements on this issue and attacking Mr Azopardi’s record while he was a GSD minister, adding that he was last in government nearly two decades ago and never held the housing portfolio.

The GSD said it was “not credible” to blame Mr Azopardi for issues faced by housing applicants in 2021, saying it was down to government ministers in office now to resolve those problems.

“Are they seriously asking the public to believe the housing situation in 2021 is caused by the GSD Leader?” the party asked.

“On that analysis it could also be said that it is Mr Picardo’s fault because the GSLP before 1996 did not resolve the issue.”

Mr Azopardi added: “Mr Picardo should stop playing political games and accept responsibility for the issues in front of him.”

“He has been in power for nearly a decade. While he could point to the past in his first couple of years in office that tactic is now tired and worn out.”

“People expect him to accept that he now has responsibility to deal with and resolve issues. No one else is to blame.”

“People on the medical and social lists will not believe anyone has power or responsibility to house them except those in government.”

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