I would like to add my two cents’ worth from our experience of living in Malta: Even working professionals fall under the category of ‘poor’ in Malta.
We were possibly an extreme case. We moved to Malta in 2010. My UK teaching salary of about
40 000 pounds sterling per year dropped to about 18 000 euro per year. I was told that I had to start from scratch – my 15 years of UK teaching experience was ignored. This is in breach of freedom of movement of EU workers and I am pursuing this. However, I still consider that 24 000 euro per year at the top of the Teacher Salary Scale, reached after teaching for 15 years, is still not good enough.
On our move to Malta, Eric did not work for about a year. Not for want of trying, but that’s another story. So we were living on 1 000 euro per month (my teaching income). ‘We’ are a family of 5 – our daughter was studying at a Scottish university, and, in 2010, our younger children were 5 years old and 2 years old. Our rent was 550 euro per month and our Arms bill, on the incorrectly applied ‘domestic’ tariff, designed for owners of empty or occasionally used second properties, was about 150 euro per month. So we were meant to survive on 300 euro per month.
I would expect that a teaching salary in a civilized country would be able to support a family of 5, for a while, at least. I would expect it to cover housing costs, energy bills and living costs easily. It was very humiliating and I must say, terrifying, to be parents of small children, and feel that you were not able to support them. I don’t think that I will ever forget that first year.
If it weren’t for relatives lending us money, and for an inheritance, we would not have been able to survive on 300 euro per month. Why should we ever have been placed in that situation in the first place?
The car we brought over from the UK incurred annual car licence fees on a sliding scale starting from about 500 euro. We have now reached the ceiling. From now on we will pay a 762 euro ACL fee every year. If we had moved to Malta before 2009, we would have paid about 200 euro per year.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s refusal to do anything about rampantly rising rents, charged with impunity by tax evading landlords, should be seen in this perspective. The CARITAS study assumed that housing costs were minimal because it was assumed that poor people would be living in social housing. http://www.illum.com.mt/ahbarijiet/socjali/45456/mintoff_trid_kontrolli_fuq_ilprezz_talkera#.V04EMvl97IV
But as you can see from the breakdown of our living expenses in 2010, the rent of 550 euro per month was more than half of our income. As the founder of the Malta Tenant Support Facebook group, I have seen rents rise exponentially in the 6 years since then. How on earth are professional people meant to survive on their meagre salaries if they rent? How is it possible that Joseph Muscat cannot see that he has no option but to control this huge rise in rents?
People who have a home loan on their own property are not often faced with rising payments. Their payments are mostly fixed for the length of their loans. They have security and are able to live more serene lives. People who rent are at the mercy of the whim and fancy of the landlord who may decide not to renew the contract when this expires. Upheaval, rent increases, no peace of mind are the lot of the tenant.
For those of you who say “Buy”: if people are paying extortionate rents, how are they meant to save for the 10% deposit needed to buy their first property? How are their salaries meant to be enough to afford the monthly payments?
Every civilized country tinkers with the ‘free’ rental market. This isn’t about capitalism, free markets, or stocks and shares. It’s about housing policy and making sure that there is a range of housing options to suit different needs at different times of people’s lives.
Refusing to cap rents or to regulate the long let rental market is just not an option. It cannot be an option. This is as plain as the nose in your face.
For those who want to see, that is.