Apartment tenants in social housing estates across Malta and Gozo will from Monday be able to buy their home interest-free and at up to 60 per cent off.

All Government-owned apartments on housing estates dating back 20 years or more will be up for grabs, meaning up to 5,500 families will be given the chance to become homeowners at massively reduced prices.

Tenants must be EU citizens and have lived in the flat for at least seven years to be eligible.

The scheme, announced yesterday by Family Minister Chris Said at Ta’ Pennellu, Mellieħa, will extend a pilot scheme that started in 2012.

It will run for a year, although Dr Said noted that the Government could opt to extend it.

Apartment prices will vary depending on location and the number of bedrooms, with a resident’s tenancy period and wealth then determining how generous a subsidy they will receive.

Applicants with more than €100,000 in assets will get a one per cent subsidy for each year of tenancy, up to a maximum of 30 per cent. And for those whose assets do not run into six figures, subsidies will effectively double: two per cent for each year of tenancy, up to a 60 per cent ceiling.

Would-be home owners will also receive help when paying for their home.

Those who buy their apartment in the traditional way, putting down a 10 per cent deposit on a deed of sale and then settling the balance, will get an additional five per cent discount.

Those who cannot afford this will be asked to put up 40 per cent of what they owe and then pay the rest in interest-free monthly instalments.

Government-owned houses and maisonettes are not part of the scheme, with certain specific housing estate apartments, such as those above City Gate in Valletta, also excluded.

“Roughly three out of every four Maltese owns their home, and we want this trend to continue,” Dr Said said, arguing that homeowners were more likely to care for and maintain their property than tenants would be.

The Government has also allocated €8 million to housing estate refurbishment over the next years, the minister added.

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