Friday, August 05, 2005

Too little too late, says Opposition

Bruzon unimpressed with Govt housing announcement • problem is the result of “ years of GSD neglect”

The GSLP/Liberal Opposition have expressed criticism following the Gibraltar Government’s announcement of the Waterport Terrace development, while disputing that the project can be called an affordable housing scheme.

Speaking to the Chronicle yesterday Opposition spokesman for Housing Charles Bruzon said “the announcement made by the Government yesterday is too little too late.”

Mr Bruzon accused the GSD (Gibraltar Social Democrats) Government of having created “a housing problem in Gibraltar through their years of neglect and inactivity in delivering low-cost housing.”

He also argues that the price structure for Waterport Terraces is going “to provide scant consolation” to people who have waited nine years “for an affordable home.”

Mr Bruzon said:

“The Government has at long last awarded the tender for the housing project known as Waterport Terraces.

This is what they promised to do in the November 2003 election before April 2004 when work on the site was scheduled to commence.

It has taken them 16 months longer than they promised and it follows previous unfulfilled promises to provide housing.

Government is on record as having said that the reason why they held back from building these homes earlier was to allow house prices to rise. This has proved to be a seriously misguided policy. It has had the effect of driving people who cannot afford to live in Gibraltar to go and live in Spain.

It is also inexcusable that at the same time as there has been no construction of low cost homes, plots of land all over Gibraltar have been made available to developers for luxury housing for the high end of the market.

New low-cost housing stock should be fed into the market, not to manipulate the market price, but in order to meet the needs of those who cannot afford to buy at the going rate.

The delay in getting such projects off the ground has meant that those who could not afford to buy their own homes in Gibraltar have grown in numbers.

The prices at which Waterport Terraces are going to be sold are much too high for first time buyers who want to get on the property ladder or for those who have opted to buy a home in Spain. Indeed, the prices are not all that much below the resale prices being paid in respect of existing estates covered by previous home ownership schemes. It is doubtful whether there will be enough people who can afford to purchase all these homes on a 100% basis.

The reason for the high prices stems directly from the manner in which Government have chosen to subsidise the project. The word “subsidy” is itself a misleading term. All that the Government have done is put out the construction of the project to tender and provided the land for free. This is not a real subsidy.

Every single home ownership project before this one has also been carried out with the land supplied for free by the Government. The flats are not affordable by the criteria of previous home ownership schemes if the prices that have been published are adjusted for inflation or the increase in average earnings since then. In these earlier developments, not only were prices at a lower ratio to earnings but in addition to this all the properties were available on a 50/50 basis.”

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