Developers would back measures to prevent non-EU nationals from buying/renting “cheap and affordable properties”, thus safeguarding housing affordability for Maltese low- and middle-income earners.
Malta Developers’ Association president Sandro Chetcuti was speaking to Times of Malta when asked whether they would favour a New Zealand-style property ban for foreigners.
Enacted a few days ago in a bid to boost housing affordability in the Pacific island state, the prohibition applies to existing homes, which non-resident foreigners are not allowed to buy.
However, non-residents could still own up to 60 per cent of units in large, newly-built apartment buildings. The only exception is for Australians and Singaporeans, in view of free-trade deals.
This drastic measure was imposed as the number of property owners in New Zealand dropped to a fourth of the population compared to one half in 1991. The trend also coincided with an increasing number of New Zealanders becoming homeless or forced to live in garages.
The move raised some interest in Malta amid concerns that the construction boom and the influx of foreigners are pushing property prices upward, to the detriment of middle- and low-income earners. The government last year announced a White Paper to overhaul the rental market laws but this has still to see the light of day.
Mr Chetcuti said Malta and New Zealand presented two completely different realities. The New Zealand law could not be imposed on buyers from other EU member states because they enjoy the same rights as Maltese, he noted.
White Paper has still to see the light of day
However, he argued that third-country nationals should not be allowed to acquire or rent cheap properties but only high-end residences not to affect the affordable housing market for Maltese families.
In this respect, the MDA has long been calling on the government to raise the minimum €1,333 monthly rent expenditure for those seeking to buy a Maltese passport or in the case of applicants wanting to buy a property to increase the minimum threshold of €350,000.
“These thresholds do not reflect the current market and are causing stress on the housing affordability for our middle- and low-income earners,” Mr Chetcuti said.
“The MDA has been flagging this for months but, sometimes, the government reacts a bit late,” he added.
“Developers have their ears to the ground and try to pre-empt certain trends to mitigate any consequence.”
The sale of affordable properties to third-country nationals would make it more problematic for the Maltese to buy their own house or apartment as it would restrict the supply on the market, Mr Chetcuti noted.
On the other hand, he remarked that having third-country nationals acquiring a €10-million villa would do no damage as this would not affect housing affordability for the Maltese.
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