Watch: Self-employed among those eligible for revised rent benefits

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Self-employed will be among those eligible for new benefits related to social accommodation, Minister Roderick Galdes announced on Thursday morning.

The Ministry for Social Accommodation has revised private rent housing benefits in view of the coronavirus outbreak which has not only caused a public health emergency but has left its effects felt on the economy.

Social Accommodation Minister Roderick Galdes accompanied by Housing Authority CEO Leonid McKay spoke about the initiatives the government is taking in the housing sector in view of the new realities such as people being laid off from work.

The global pandemic has left its impact on housing. Certain countries have announced rent freeze and termination suspensions which prohibits residential rents increases and prevents landlords from terminating residential tenancies during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Since the first cases were reported in Malta, we were prepared,” Minister Galdes said. He said that the government prepared for the eventuality that some might not be able to pay rent.

The private rent housing benefit has been revised to reflect the new reality. Around 20% of the families in Malta live in rented accommodation. Galdes explained that as of last year a new benefit was introduced which was based on means testing.

By reviewing the housing benefit, the government took into account new realities such as individuals who lost their job during the pandemic, self-employed who cannot work and those living in an abusive situation, Galdes explained.

Galdes remarked that in cases of domestic violence the state was helping victims to leave their house by giving substantial benefits including the payment of the deposit.

The Housing Authority is paying around 80% of the rent, Galdes said. The Minister noted that landlords have taken into account the exceptional circumstances which the country is in now and have lowered rent payments for their tenants. He highlighted that tenants are being helped through benefits and the lowering of rent.

So far, 30 applications have been processed Minister Galdes said when fielding questions from the media. Among those who applied are self-employed individuals who would not have benefited under the previous scheme. The Housing Authority has also received applications from individuals who have lost their jobs as well as others who were accessing the scheme for the first time.

The social measure will remain in place until the coronavirus pandemic is over.

Housing Authority CEO Leonid McKay described the mechanism as a “direct injection” into the rental market helping the tenant directly and landlord indirectly. He explained that given one’s dwelling is the first line of defence against coronavirus, as an authority they could not stay idle. He mentioned the suspension of late registration fees and the waiving off of re-registration of a contract in cases where the rent has been lowered due to the pandemic. Those who have bought their house from the Housing Authority and were still paying for it received a moratorium due to the current situation.

The Minister also thanked a number of stakeholders in the sector including YMCA, aditus Foundation, Moviment Graffitti and the Malta Developers Association.

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