Housing Press Call and Statement 31.01.19
Together Gibraltar notes with concern the submission of plans for more luxury residential accommodation at Europa Walks, to DPC. While we understand the importance of attracting inward investment into Gibraltar and the need for some luxury developments to cater for this, this will be one of, in excess of twenty high-end developments which are built or in the process of being built since this Government took office in 2011. Meanwhile, everyday Gibraltarians are left with limited options as to social housing, often facing up to 10 years on the waiting list for a government rental or waiting for the next lot of affordable homes because they are priced out of the open market. The continuous demand for social housing is never met while we build upmarket estates at an alarming rate using the very scarce land we have for the benefit of a privileged few.
The Europa Walks properties are part of the Land Transfer Agreement between the Government and the MOD and were transferred to Government at the beginning of this year. The GSLP/Liberal 2011 manifesto page 57 said: “We will ensure that the MOD properties being handed over to the Gibraltar Government will be partly put out to tender and partly used for Government rental in a fair and equitable manner”. Given that none of the MOD properties transferred under this agreement have been used for Government rentals (of which there have been none built or projected since 2011); the proposed plans, which include 22 townhouses and 6 villas in a plot of 8,463 square meters, are neither fair nor equitable to the average Gibraltarian. All properties have been tendered out to the highest bidder and the remaining land is being developed for high net worth individuals.
We also have a profound issue with the supply of affordable housing only being affordable for the first intake of people. Thereafter, these estates are lost to the open market and with them another plot of land which we no longer have, to cater for future generations. We have an over-supply of luxury housing which is surplus to the needs of average income Gibraltarians. These artificially inflate open market house prices to a level that is unattainable for too many (except perhaps those who have gone from affordable to high end in one sale on the back of the tax payer). It is not sustainable. We are pushing our own people out because they cannot afford to live here. As far back as 2003, when this government was in Opposition they were saying things like: “The GSD has shown itself to be a better friend of the profit margins of the developers than of the Gibraltarian first time homebuyers! This is something people must keep in mind when assessing the political sincerity of the GSD administration and the value of their electoral commitments.” (source: Gibraltar Chronicle, 22nd August 2003)
Together Gibraltar thereby questions the GSLP/Libs’ own sincerity in the face of their own narrative since 2003, considering their record on housing construction since they took office.
It is also interesting to juxtapose this table with the GSLP/Libs’ 2011 Manifesto where on page 57 they state: “Premium land, for the whole of the community, not for the privileged few”. To date, this GSLP/Libs administration has provided just over 1,000 affordable homes and just under 3,000 ‘unaffordable-to-the-average-Gibraltarian’ homes.
There has to be a more balanced long-term strategy to address our complex housing issues and a more responsible use of the very limited land we have. Housing is a fundamental human right as contained in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
Together Gibraltar is committed to stimulating home ownership in a non-speculating manner. We are committed to providing housing opportunities to all Gibraltarians no matter what income level. We will provide opportunities to get on the property ladder at a young age and we will provide affordable housing relative to income and needs.
Some of the mechanisms that we are currently working on to make housing more affordable for the second time housing buyer range from:
capping government affordable property prices to fall in line with inflation in order to maintain a small but steady growth;
working on new programmes to ensure affordability is tested and people in different affordability brackets are offered opportunities within their means, in order to ensure that:
people are well cared for;
there is no abuse;
there is mobility within the existing affordable housing market.
Together Gibraltar is also committed to introduce a new council, if elected into Government, and to propose this same council to Government if we remain in Opposition called “The Commission For Lands”. This council will be composed of the Minister for Housing, the Opposition spokesperson for Housing -forcing the Government and Opposition to work together for the benefit of Gibraltar- a representative from Land Property Services, a representative from Action for Housing, one representative from the Environmental NGOs and a representative from the Chartered Institute of Surveyors. This council will meet in public like the DPC meets, to consider applications for sale of all government lands and will develop a twenty-year plan for the use of government land in Gibraltar. We shall be transposing this policy into a party motion and vote on it at our AGM next week.
We must be responsible and forward thinking, and it is up to us to safeguard the land we have in order to ensure that future generations wanting to purchase their own home are not priced out of their homeland.