Building industry requires restructuring

The building industry requires restructuring. This was stated by Carmel Cacopardo, Deputy Chairperson and AD spokesperson on Sustainable Development and Home Affairs.

Carmel Cacopardo continued by stating “When we speak on the sustainable use of land it is understood that land is utilised properly with due attention to its environmental, social and economic impacts.

When over 70,000 residential units are vacant and approximately 2,500 families are registered with the Housing Authority due to their requiring alternative accomodation it is pretty obvious that all is not well in the manner we are making use of land. In this sense Government acted correctly (since Chris Said was appointed as Minister for Housing) to cancel plans for the construction of more residential units and instead proceeded to tap the private sector by encouraging the renting out of property. This is a good measure and AD not only applauds it but moreover it encourages the Housing Authority to consider this measure as a permanent tool in its social accomodation arsenal. It is a sustainable way of implementing housing policy.”

Cacopardo continued “But this has not always been so. It is to be underlined that when the 2005 census was carried out, which census revealed the existence of over 53,000 vacant properties, the government led by the PN ignored the facts which resulted. Instead of applying the brakes to the development of land it acted in a completely different manner. A few months after the 2005 Census it launched three measures which increased the possibilities for development. Through the so-called “rationalisation exercise” land considered suitable for development was increased substantially all over Malta. The permissible heights for development were increased in various localities as a consequence throwing to the wind investments in solar energy technology made by various families as next to their properties higher buildings were constructed, their photovoltaic panels were now almost permanently in the shade. The third measure was one which facilitated the construction of penthouses when everything was already pointing towards the need to restrict such construction. The construction of penthouses should be restricted as this is the only way to ensure the right of access to solar energy for residents of blocks of flats.”

Carmel Cacopardo concluded that “Within this context in its electoral programme AD is insisting on the reversal of the rationalisation exercise thereby shifting the limits of permissible development and wherever possible to reduce building heights and restrict the construction of penthouses.”

AD Secretary General Ralph Cassar, concluded the press conference by insisting that AD considers that the time is ripe for the restructuring of the building industry. “This industry should be assisted in reducing its construction role and instead shifting its attention to restoration of old buildings, road works and the improvement of coastal and marine infrastructure. This requires substantial investments in the training of personnel.”

He added that AD is worried about excessive urbanisation and so called “development”. “Even here in one of the most congested and urbanised areas in Malta the building spree continues. Manoel Island ended up in private hands with more buildings instead of being turned into a green lung and historical park.”

“As regards empty buildings AD is proposing targeting speculators by taxing properties from the third one onwards. This will target those keeping building empty for speculative purposes. It will also push developers into ensuring that their developments are really needed before they embark on projects. This measure can also boost the rental market.”