Living with the old folks

High living costs and limited affordable housing force young Maltese workers to stay with parents.

Almost half of young Maltese workers aged between 25 and 34 still live in the parental home, according to figures released by Eurofound, the EU Agency for the improvement of living and working conditions.  That’s the fourth highest percentage in the EU after Croatia, Slovakia, Greece, and Bulgaria.  The lowest is in Finland, where only 2% do so.  The report also shows that Malta has the highest percentage of young people aged between 15 and 29 who live with their parents.

It is to be expected that students are much more likely than those in employment to be living with their parents, but the fact that a significant proportion of employed adults also do so is surely a sign that high living and housing costs and the shortage of affordable housing are playing a role.  The subject was taken up in a very interesting paper by Dr Marie Briguglio in 2022, where the author examined the question of housing affordability by young people and its implications for their well-being, including mental health.

Decent housing is an essential condition towards the fulfilment of one’s life aspirations and allows us to access social and economic guarantees.  While there is no simple or rapid solution to help young people enter the housing market, there is a crying need for more social housing   ̶   that is, housing developed by not-for-profit organisations or governments, and therefore let at a lower price than housing in the private market. 

Examples of good practice include France, where housing providers   ̶   together with partners such as local youth organisations   ̶   offer a number of solutions, ranging from shared housing, through social residences for young workers, to social university residences for students and young people in training or traineeships; Denmark, with special ‘youth housing’ rented out to young people pursuing further education or with a particular need for it; Slovenia, with a special fund providing long-term financing for the development of affordable housing and social housing aimed at young people; and Sweden, where a cooperative housing scheme is developed in cooperation with young people themselves.

The Ministry for Social and Affordable Accommodation needs to do more.  There are several EU initiatives that could set an example.  Earlier this year, the European Investment Bank lent €22 million to Malita Investments plc, a company with an 80% government shareholding, to build affordable housing in Luqa.  The APS Bank is also trying to contribute through its collaboration with the Foundation for Affordable Housing. 

Yet, more can be done, in my opinion.  The Malta Development Bank needs to play a role too, emulating the German development banks and the Asian Development Bank.  In collaboration with the commercial banks, it needs to explore the construction and financing of affordable and workforce rental housing, bridge acquisition and refinancing loans for housing properties with rent restrictions or subsidy agreements, and equity for low-cost community development properties on the example of Vienna.

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