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New rental homes only solution to social housing shortage – Action for Housing

Photo by Johnny Bugeja

Building new rental flats is the only way to address Gibraltar’s “serious housing shortage”, campaign group Action for Housing said on Thursday, stressing demand for social housing remained much higher than supply.

The campaign group earlier this week with GBC highlighted the case of Khalil Lyaacoubi, an applicant on the medical housing list who lives in substandard conditions but has yet to be allocated a house.

After the case was highlighted, Housing Minister Steven Linares said the government had allocated 176 properties last year including 61 to medical and social cases, adding that there were multiple complex issues that impacted on how quickly others on the list could be assigned new houses.

He insisted the government was satisfied with its housing record, something which came as no surprise to Action for Housing.

“Saying it is inevitable when they have to justify a housing policy which fails to provide government flats for rental for all those who are in need,” said the group’s spokesman, Henry Pinna.

“By turning a blind eye to the most needy, vulnerable and least articulate the government thinks it can weather the storm and those affected will continue to suffer without complaining publicly.”

“But we are determined to give a voice to the voiceless and bring on to the public domain their appalling housing situation.”

Mr Linares said applicants on the medical and social lists made up 35 per cent of government rental flats allocated last year.

“If that was so the minister must explain why there are applicants who were high up on the waiting list who were not given a Government flat for rental and their position on the list has barely progressed if at all,” Mr Pinna said.

“The reason why Mr Khalil Lyaacoubi's case was made public earlier this week was not so that he would be visited or helped by Minister Linares but to give a visible example of the dreadful and shameful housing reality that affects not just this applicant but a considerable number of others.”

“We will not allow for these situations to be ignored and will do what we can to bring them to the fore whenever they are brought to our notice and we will continue to do so.”

EMPATHY?

The GSD echoed Action for Housing and said the government must “lose sight” of the case of Mr Lyaacoubi, but rather should address it and other cases like his.

While 61 medical and social cases had been assigned properties last year, the issue still remained as to why Mr Lyaacoubi was not in that batch given he is living in “clearly inhumane and appalling conditions”.

“For the Government to turn a case where they are obviously failing into a statement that attacks the Opposition smacks of a desperate attempt to cover its failings,” the GSD said in a statement.

“To then go beyond that and say that they are ‘extremely satisfied’ of their record just shows a galling disregard of terrible housing conditions of the individual in front of their very eyes.”

“Where is their empathy?”

The GSD said the government should instead had simply resolved the case and any others like it, rather than state it was “extremely satisfied” with the allocation of government-owned properties over the past year.

The GSD reminded the government that it had yet to fulfil its commitment prior to the 2011 election to house everyone on the housing list.

“The political point is that they are failing this individual now and need to deal with it,” the party added.

“That case raises the issue of how housing is being allocated today in 2021.”

“It should be applied in a way that achieves housing for this gentleman now.”

The GSD said it had been calling for reform of this area for a long time and acknowledged that the basis of the current housing system had been in place for decades.

The GSD had clear manifesto commitments at the last election, it added, as it reacted too to comments by Together Gibraltar on this issue.

It said that to suggest the GSD were the “creators” of the “broken housing system” displayed “…a terrible historical ignorance on how the system came about in their rush to taint other parties.”

“In fact the bulk of the rules and Housing Scheme still being applied now were put in place by the IWBP-led Government and then modified by Sir Joshua Hassan’s AACR in the 1970s,” the GSD said.

“They were appropriate and adequate at the time and served its purpose for this community.”

“The GSD certainly didn’t create the housing rules as we did not even exist as a party at the time.”

“Fifty years on however, the Housing Scheme needs radical overhaul as we committed ourselves to in our last manifesto.”

“It needs now to respond to the needs of 21st century Gibraltar.”

“We have undertaken to entirely review the system put in place by the IWBP and AACR which TG unfairly appears to think was ‘rotten to the core’.”

“We disagree it was but it now needs radical reform.”

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