One of the hot topics among locals here on Malta is the building boom. They often speak about how there’s too much supply for the current demand. And, indeed, there seem to be new houses and small apartment blocks going up at the edges of many villages, even on Gozo. Often the construction is happening next to a couple new but vacant buildings.
A recent article in The Malta Times describes the scope of the issue:
The census shows that the number of vacant dwellings now amount to about 53,000, an astonishing increase of 17,000 since 1995. In percentage terms, this means that 26 per cent of dwellings are vacant. Moreover, only 10,028 of these properties are holiday homes…
With a landmass almost eight times as large as Malta’s and about 100,000 more residents, Luxembourg has some 20,000 fewer dwellings. While there are 53,136 vacant properties in Malta, Luxembourg has only 4,000. Ireland, with a total stock of 1.4 million dwellings has only around 7,000 vacant dwellings or 0.5 per cent of the total stock.
That’s 53,000 empty residences on an island with about 400,000 people. The article goes on to say that Greece and Portugal are actually worse off.
What’s the cause? One reason, apparently, is that there’s no property tax in Malta. So it doesn’t cost owners anything to simply leave their properties alone. I suspect there are many cases of Maltese people living abroad whose parents have died and left them (often unwanted) property on the islands.