A pastoral letter penned by the bishops of Malta and Gozo stated that in the housing sector we have emergency situations causing difficulties to some of our families, many of our young people, and several foreigners among us, who struggle to find accommodation that they can afford to rent or buy. They launched several appeals aimed at society at large, politicians, landlords, tenants and Church organisations.
In what was described as a first, Archbishop Charles Scicluna read the pastoral letter during mass at the Naxxar Parish Church as part of the national festivities commemorating Our Lady of Victories and the liturgical feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. The pastoral letter is also signed by Bishop Mario Grech and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Galea Curmi.
An appeal to society
The bishops said that in the housing sector we have emergency situations where families and the elderly cannot meet the rapidly escalating rent crisis and consequently are ending up on the streets; where young people do not qualify for a bank loan; and where people who are going through a crisis like a separation, mental health problems or an addiction, rely on the rental market because they either do not have their own property or do not have social housing.
They appealed to Maltese society not to become indifferent when faced with these dramatic situations that are creating a new type of poverty while also destroying so many people’s hope, especially that of our young people.
An appeal to politicians
The bishops appealed to all politicians – Government, Opposition and local councillers – to work together for the common good thus avoiding that the housing problem becomes a partisan political football. Politicians should find practical and effective solutions for the urgent cases that require planning in the short, medium and long-term. A timely regulation of the rental market and provision for sustainable housing, said the bishops, would give the people who are worst hit by this crisis, the dignity of having a suitable roof over their heads.
An appeal to landlords and developers
The bishops said that landlords and developers should reflect more seriously on the ethical and social aspects of their activity, be guided by a social conscience, and exercise restraint on the rates that regulate the buying and renting of property according to just and equal criteria, underpinned by responsibility and solidarity.
“What does it profit you in paying foreigners a pittance an hour for their work while at the same time depriving them of their rights; or what does it profit you in turning entire families out on the streets in order to make an alternative income of thousands a month, all the while flaunting your generosity by donating substantial sums to your parish? Do you honestly think that Christ rejoices in such offerings?”
An appeal to tenants
Tenants living in rented properties, said the bishops, should take care of the property to the best of their ability.
“Social justice also demands that one does not unnecessarily resort to social housing to the detriment of those who really are in dire straits. Whoever abuses of the social welfare system through deceitful means is guilty of stealing while also putting an unjust burden on the same welfare system.”
An appeal to ecclesial communities
The final appeal was made to Church communities. The bishops noted the many positive intitiatives taken in this area including some in tandem with Government, the private sector or civil society. Among the examples the bishops mentioned Dar Papa Franġisku, Dar Maria Dolores, Fondazzjoni Suret il-Bniedem, Dar Osanna Pia as well as the several residences run by the Emigrants Commission.