Over the last few years, whenever I, or others, have brought up the subject of rent regulation and / or rent control, there has always been a defensive backlash of comments which go something like this:
Why are you renting? Renting is a waste of money – you should buy.
Mhux you, you spend all your money on your hair and nails! And then you say that you don’t have money to buy a property? You’re just not good at money management. You need a few lessons. Look at me – at 20 I could afford the deposit on my very own property and now I’m on the property ladder.
It’s the market, innit. You cannot interfere with the free market because if you do the world will spontaneously combust and we will all enter a parallel dimension. The free market is a sacrosanct sacred cow. Didn’t you know?
You chose to have kids when you did. You should have waited. Or: Why did you have 4 kids? Why don’t you use the free child care and go out to work, like the rest of us?
Beggars cannot be choosers – Heq, what did you expect - to live in Bugibba?
You have to live within your means – you shouldn’t buy exotic fruits like peaches – it should be apples and oranges. How dare you think that you can afford anything like peaches?
If you really love your kids, but you cannot give them what they need, have them fostered, so that you can then get a job. It doesn’t matter that you will earn the minimum wage, and still not be able to make ends meet. Or that the kids will be broken hearted. As will you. Beggars cannot be choosers or live a life of dignity and happiness -they have to be punished for ever.
Your husband beat you and the kids, and left you? Tough. You should have known that he was a bad sort before you decided to go and marry him. You made your bed –now you lie in it. Of course, you will forever be labelled as a scrounger for daring to ask for help. Of course he gets to run away from his responsibilities and go wreak havoc with somebody else’s life. He’s a man, you’re a woman. Innit.
And more such toxicity...
These people put no effort into trying to put themselves in the struggling person’s shoes. Absolutely none. Instead they condemn and they sneer, they bay like hounds at their quarry...
And they’re terrible at Maths - they are the ones that need some money management lessons .
Because if a tenant has to fork out 500 euro per month to put a roof over her head and her children’s, then 800 euro per month income – 500 euro rent per month = not able to make ends meet.
A single parent of two kids needs a minimum of 766 euro per month to make ends meet, according to Leonid McKay’s Caritas study. This assumed that the family lived in social housing and that the housing costs were 200 euro PER YEAR.
I know people who never seem to get any lucky break in their lives. Or who never had the nurturing environment they needed in their childhood to be able to stand on their own two feet and fight life’s inevitable battles.
People are different. People have different thresholds of get up and go. If somebody is reaching out for help, it really is lowest of the low to snarl and refuse to help them.
At the same time, I am conscious that every time I bring to people’s attention the fact that successive Maltese administrations have been overcharging tenants for their consumption of water and electricity for years, not an eyebrow is raised, not a whimper is heard.
I am under no illusion that the lot of the poor will ever be great. But isn’t it paramount that we make our government take away any systemic social injustices? Why should a tenant pay more for their consumption of water and electricity than a homeowner? Why has it taken 3 years, and counting, for the current administration to not overcharge tenants? I wrote to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and the then Minister for Energy Konrad Mizzi three years ago about this abuse. Still nothing has been done and the theft continues.
I know somebody who is being charged 5 euro per cubic metre of water and 22c per unit of electricity. This, when she should be paying 1.40 euro per cubic metre of water and 10c to 16c per unit of electricity. Plus she should get an eco reduction if she doesn’t go over an allowance of 2 000 units of electricity per year. Easily done in her case, because she lives in abject misery and refuses to use electrical appliances unless she absolutely has to, so fearful is she of not being able to pay her bill.
Many of the tenants in my tenant support facebook group are paying the same extortionate rates.
I am in a constant state of incredulity that still nothing has been done about this stealing from the poor by the state.
Where are the baying hounds in situations like this? Why have the suspicious antics of Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri not excited the same level of disdain and disgust that the woman with the four kids living in a condemned warehouse , wanting to spend a day in Gozo with her family, has?
Is it a case of being strong with the weak, and weak with the strong?
Human nature is just the pits sometimes.