Upon launching its Vision for a National Housing System, the Ministry for Social Accommodation has called on local stakeholders to share their knowledge on the housing system in Malta. These stakeholders included various members of the academic community at the University of Malta.
Newspoint spoke to Ms Annabel Cuff, Research Support Officer at the Faculty for Social Wellbeing, who attended one of these workshops, about what members of the UM community can bring to the table when shaping this national vision.
“We are realising that our traditional idea of a household is changing before our very own eyes”, says Ms Cuff. “And we need to take this into account if we want this to be a truly successful policy”.
She referred to the family unit, which typically involves the mother and the father, as well as the children living under the same roof. This traditional arrangement no longer reflects the wider reality – there are single parents living with their children, people living by themselves, and the elderly who need live-in assistance, among others.
As they go through the different stages of their life cycle, each of these units have particular needs – as they get older, people leave their parents’ home and rent their own apartment, then they might settle down and look to buy property, as children are welcome into the family, an upgrade might be sought, and when the children eventually move out, they tend to downgrade again. These situations of social flux may or may not be hindered by certain variables.
Affordability, accessibility, security of tenure, economic factors and non-discrimination in housing, were among the topics discussed by the stakeholders, “all of which need to be discussed and re-discussed to arrive at an alternative way of delivering social housing”.
Bearing these variables in mind, these workshops took a snapshot of the status quo and gathered the perspective of several people involved on what can be done to improve the current situation.
“The most important part of this consultation is that it was such a wide consultation, and it embraced such a range of experiences that it really helped put together a detailed and thorough big picture. It felt good to be in that room because we are all working towards a common goal – that of drafting a policy based on sound footing”, noted Ms Cuff.
Along with a number of other faculties around the University of Malta, the Faculty for Social Wellbeing is working with the Housing Authority by presenting the findings from its latest research. “We are looking at how social housing can hinder or aid social mobility, what makes it challenging for individuals to move ahead in life. We are adding value to research by putting it into practice.
“It’s very encouraging to see policies not being created in a vacuum but upon consultation, including discussions with the people who the policies will affect, and other thinkers who will bring fresh perspectives into this”.
The next step, Ms Cuff tells Newspoint, is for all the participants to be sent a document with minutes from the workshop and for them to check if it reflects what they had to say, with the possibility of adding on things.
When all this feedback is gathered, the actual paper documenting the national housing vision, may start being drafted.
“I am excited by this process, seeing that really hope all this knowledge is being put into practice, and that the time we spent listening to each other’s very valuable input translates into the breaking of barriers for social mobility in Malta,” concluded Ms Cuff.