malta / aerial / st julians / property

The Malta Developers Association has confirmed that it is in talks with the Government to lobby for the introduction of a scheme it says will preserve the traditional character of Malta’s villages while contributing to the country’s economic development.

The scheme, first floated by ex-MDA president Sandro Chetcuti in 2019, would see developable airspace utilised “as a currency” by giving monetary value to the unused potential gross floor area in villages and allowing trade in such floorspace.

This would mean that owners of properties in villages that would benefit from the reservation of traditional streetscapes would be able to sell their unused developable area to other owners seeking airspace to build properties in highly developed areas or touristic areas earmarked for development.

In recent years, developers have come under criticism for what has been described as Malta’s “uglification”, although they claim that this is in large part due to planning policies that incentivise reckless construction.

Michael Stivala, acting MDA president since Mr Chetcuti stepped down, says that traditional streetscapes in villages are under threat under the current policies that allows each house to build additional floors on a piecemeal, individual basis.

He says the association is currently in talks with Government to introduce a scheme whereby certain streets have their allowable development space reduced, prohibiting them from building five-storey buildings that jar with the character of the street.

The owners of these properties would then be able to sell their airspace to developers of towers, allowable them to go higher than the limit imposed by the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) policy.

“Imagine you have a house with a site area of 100sqm,” Mr Stivala says to illustrate the point. “If you can add three storeys to your two-storey house, that means you have 300sqm to sell to a developer who is building a tower somewhere who would love to be able to add 300sqm to their building’s space.”

Steve Mercieca, co-founder and CEO of real estate giants QuickLets and Zanzi Homes, who also serves as vice-president of the MDA’s estate agents section, agrees wholeheartedly with the proposal.

“With such a small island the only way is up,” he says. “This scheme is a win-win for both the house owner and the developer, as well as all of us.”

He believes that areas of Malta need to be “sectioned off for the unstoppable tower revolution”, with open discussions being held on how this can be done sustainably and in an environmentally friendly manner.

“We have to focus on infrastructure and quality development with smart and energy efficient renewable technologies. I believe this is the next step for developers to be able to deliver a positive urban environment to move the industry forward.”

Although Malta’s population growth has slowed over the last couple of years due to the pandemic, the post-pandemic economic plan remains based on attracting growing numbers of migrant workers to plug holes in the various industries crying out for human resources, from igaming to catering.

“As our population increases we aren’t going to be left with many options besides up,” continued Mr Mercieca. “We cannot have towers popping up all over the developable area. This scheme will bring together areas of highrise and at the same time protect less developed areas without taking away the value of the property from the home owner.”

Concluding, he adds: “Realistically this is one of the only ways to keep some sort of uniformity on our skyline. Taller towers will add more value to the economy, attracting better clients and higher quality brands in the public spaces below and roof terraces above.”

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