Attack on empty flats

The Ministry for Housing says it has been making every effort to put in place a strategy, through Buildings and Works, for the quickest possible return to the housing stock of empty flats requiring cleaning and refurbishing before becoming ready for allocation.

"These efforts have in fact succeeded in reducing the number of flats waiting to be refurbished from some 45 this time last year to around 27 now," says Housing minister Clive Beltran.

Unfortunately, this increase in the rate of return of refurbished flats is currently slowing down as indeed is the number of routine daily repair jobs carried out, as a result of the 'unilateral and unfortunate decision' taken by the T&G to withdraw the workforce from the productivity incentive bonus scheme and start industrial action, he adds.

Mr Beltran says it is also public knowledge that there are some flats that lie empty as a result of the abuse of tenancy agreements by tenants who are not occupying their flats to the detriment of persons on the Housing Waiting lists. In order to assist in recovering these flats for re-allocation, "my ministry has introduced a telephone recording service that is confidential and allows citizens to provide anonymously, the address of flats which they consider to be empty. These details are then investigated by the Ministry, as it has done for many years now, whenever notice of such flats has been brought to its attention either by the members of the public or through the work of its own officers."

However, he says there is a misconception as to the numbers and the reasons why these flats appear to be empty:
  1. Unfortunately it is sometimes the case that a sitting tenant decides to reside somewhere else either in Gibraltar or abroad and his/her flat remains empty giving the impression that Government is simply taking an inordinate amount of time in allocating it to someone else. My Ministry closely monitors any such case that comes to our attention and action is taken as soon as possible with a number of such flats already having been recovered through the courts for subsequent allocation to applicants on the waiting lists. It needs to be made clear, however, that the process from detection to recovery is lengthy, costly and complex.

  2. Certain flats may also appear to be unallocated when in fact the tenancy agreement has been signed and the tenants have not yet moved in for a variety of reasons.

  3. It is also the case, particularly in the upper town area, that flats lying empty and believed by many people to be Government flats are in fact privately owned.

  4. Lastly there are some very old Government flats that are beyond economic repair and await demolition, which is something that is easier said than done for many reasons. Thus, this category of empty flat also contributes to the popular misconception regarding the number of flats that are ready for allocation.