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23rd February 2023
4 min read

Can estate agents shape the future of Malta’s Landscape?

316 km2. That’s the combined land size of Malta (245.7km2), Gozo (67.1km2 ) and Comino (2.8km2).

Although small in size, our Maltese islands pack a punch. They have a rich history, vibrant culture and a considerable diversity of landscapes and ecosystems - all of which should be protected.

Today, our current landscape tells a very different story. You only need to look around to see how we have abused the environment over the years.

An EU survey reports that construction activity is 330% higher now, compared with 10 years ago* - a stark contrast to the rest of Europe where the sector shrank.

If you are surprised by this statistic, you shouldn’t be. The property sector has idly stood by, as we’ve watched our open spaces disappear in place of new developments.

Although challenging, property leaders and real estate agents can help shape the future of Malta’s landscape in a positive way. The problem is happening now and time is up - we need to prioritise creating a sustainable and livable environment for generations to come.

1. Embracing Sustainable Development

To its very core, sustainability means meeting our own needs, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. This concept is key to preserving our open spaces and the natural beauty of Malta's island environment.

Sustainable development looks like incorporating green technologies, adhering to sustainable building practices and preserving open spaces when constructing new properties and building up existing ones.

Many homes already have technology such as solar panels and smart appliances, which improve energy efficiency and use less resources than traditional houses. Other properties on the market use a low carbon construction process, limiting the amount of carbon emissions produced through the materials used in the building process itself.

To enact change, you don’t have to be an international property developer with a hefty CSR budget. In reality, being a smaller business is a big advantage to make some serious impact.

As real estate agents, we are in a unique position to help shape demand and support for the building of sustainable and eco-friendly homes, through our impression on and interaction with home buyers. By making an active effort to highlight the benefits of sustainable homes, we can encourage buyers to choose sustainably.

It might sound like a small step in the grand scheme of things, but these small steps will help shape demand, forcing property developers to “think green” in the building process.

2. Renovating Vacant Properties

Malta has a very high number of vacant properties, with some claims suggesting that there are up to 226 vacant properties per sqm! Instead of eating into our green spaces and skyline through new build properties, our attention should shift towards existing vacant properties.

The government had announced last year that people who renovate qualifying properties would receive a grant on the value of the VAT paid up to a maximum of €54,000 for the first €300,000 spent on restoration and finishing expenses.

A qualifying property includes those built more than 20 years ago and which have been vacant for seven years; for properties within the Urban Conservation Area; for new properties that are built in typical and traditional Maltese style and architecture.

Although great in principle, the need for a property to remain vacant for seven years in order to qualify, only adds more barriers to change, creating a longer time period before real action can take place.

The key to changing Malta’s landscape is to first tackle the problem of vacant properties. Making changes at the top that really benefits buyers and encourages them to take on the renovation task (often tied with vacant properties), will prevent even more of our green spaces being cleared for new developments.

As real estate agents, we must do what we can to support this by being more selective about our property portfolios - giving the spotlight to renovation projects, vacant properties and highlighting their potential.

3. Encouraging Collaboration

I don’t think anyone can ignore the problem anymore. We are seeing change happening already with the younger generation arriving on the property market. They care more about sustainability, climate change and our landscape and will not accept paying high prices for homes that do not tick this box.

Property developers and estate agents that embrace this change and lead by example will undoubtedly be able to to attract the next generation of home and commercial property-buyers. But we need to work together with government agencies, developers, and other stakeholders to ensure that new developments and rules around vacant properties align with Malta’s long-term goals for sustainability and livability.

*EU Survey 2022

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