Maltese rental and housing prices have been rising disproportionately in the last couple of years, something which surely hasn’t gone unnoticed. This is because this issue has impacted most of the inhabitants residing in Malta, from locals to foreigners, young and old.
The demand for housing has been increasing due to a number of changes within Maltese society. The population of this little island has drastically increased over the past decade. According to data based on census, the population has risen from 407,832 in 2007 to 475,701 in 2017 – meaning an increase of 16.64% in population in just 10 years. This can be be partly attributed to immigration; both the accession of the refugee crisis and the flowing in of European migrants and foreign investors attracted by the Maltese fast-pace growing economy.
The above factors play their part in the ever increasing demand for housing. Yet, Malta’s surface area is what it is and surely cannot increase by demand. The ever growing tourism industry has led to landlords preferring to rent their properties to tourists or foreigners, because of the “opportunity” to rent out at even more exaggerated prices.
Does all this mean we need to build more apartments in order to keep up with the demand? The answer is a big no. In a survey conducted by Eurostat on land use and coverage area frame surveys (LUCAS), it was found that Malta has the highest percentage of land covered by artificial surfaces in all of Europe, a shocking 23.7% (1). A quarter of our island is covered by buildings. Followed by Malta is the Netherlands at 12.1% – the second most built country in Europe has half the amount of built up areas than we do!
The ever increasing housing prices are not being met with an equal increase in wages. This is obviously turning out to be a major problem. Maltese youth are being faced with a new crisis – how to make ends meet while being able to get a loan in order to eventually (or hopefully) be able to afford their own house. This poses a great stressor and source of anxiety, as young adults fear not being able to move on to independent living by age 30. This insecurity seeps in one’s self-perception, decision making and life choices. As humans we tend to attribute failures to ourselves, even when the outcomes could not have been possibly been altered by us. The thought of still living with one’s parents by age 30, in a society which expects us to be financially stable and coupled by that same age, induces feelings of inferiority and incompetence. Most of our parents were married with kids at our age, while we can barely afford to rent a shared apartment.
Yet, the crisis-induced youth is not even the cohort whose having it worst at the expense of the housing market. According to the YMCA Social Programme & Annual Administrative report 2017, their homeless shelter facility has seen a noticeable increase in homeless individuals seeking their service, as illustrated below:
|Clients beginning of Month||Moved on||Terminated||New||Clients end of month||Bed nights per month||Number of referrals|
|Totals 2016||Average 19||30||3||42||Average 20||7,061||355|
|Totals 2017||Average 22||182||9||196||Average 22||8,283||399|
Although the first mental association made with the term “homeless” tends to be that of a dirty guy with torn clothes begging in the middle of the road, within the Maltese context, that is far from the truth. The homeless are unseen, since by law, it is not allowed to sleep or beg in the streets. The homeless are sleeping in their cars, in abandoned buildings, in gyms and in hidden roads. The homeless include the stereotypes; the people with addiction problems and ex-prisoners who are not welcomed by employers. Yet they also include men and women who have separated from their spouse and whose singular wage cannot cater for an apartment. It includes young adults who work hard from day to night, yet their wage does not compensate for independent living. More and more people are ending up on the streets due to the inability to afford renting, which is a sad and true reality. In fact, homeless shelters in Malta are not keeping up with the number of daily referrals they receive and are being unable to provide housing to all.
It is evident that the housing market is having its effect on the Maltese population not only on a socioeconomic level but also on a psychological one. Greed has taken a toll on our country, blinding authorities from the harsh realities experienced by many. This leaves one to wonder where and when the line will be drawn – and whether that line will signify an economic breaking point of which consequences will be worst than the present situation.