Marcel Cassar, CEO of APS Bank and Chair of the Malta Bankers’ Association, saluted the memory of anti-poverty campaigners Charles Miceli and Joe Bartolo last week, crediting them with the idea that would go on to become the Housing Authority’s Deposit Payment Scheme.
The scheme helps people who qualify for a bank loan but have not yet saved up the 10 per cent down payment required to buy their own home, with the Housing Authority putting up the self-financed portion on condition that it is repaid within 25 years.
The scheme has been touted as a major success, with over 200 families making use of the scheme since its launch.
Originally limited to €17,500 (allowing the purchase of homes worth up to €175,000), it was extended to €22,500 last month (allowing beneficiaries to buy properties worth up to €225,000).
Amidst a frank discussion about high-rise development during the launch of audit and advisory firm Grant Thornton and real estate agency Dhalia’s latest edition of their report on the property market, Mr Cassar touched upon the issue of affordability, and recalled the two veteran campaigners’ vital contribution to the issue.
“I remember sitting together with Charles Miceli and Joe Bartolo [known as Is-Sloopy], as they put forward the idea that would be taken on and eventually change people’s lives so effectively,” said Mr Cassar, reflecting on their contributions to a room packed with real estate and property sector representatives.
Charles Miceli passed away at the age of 68 in 2018. He had started life as a journalist with Union Print, going on to work closely with Caritas as Head of its Prison Inmates Programme.
He was a vociferous advocate for the disadvantaged, becoming a major figure in the anti-poverty NGO Alleanza Kontra l-Faqar.
Ms Cassar’s comments came on the same day as a book launch dedicated to Mr Miceli’s life and work, entitled Imħabba Militanti [Militant Love].
“More than a memorial, this book strengthens our understanding that light can triumph over darkness. Yes, Easter is with us still,” reads the promotional material, in a nod to Mr Miceli’s Church-rooted convictions.
A long-time collaborator and friend, Mr Bartolo passed away two years later. He was also a leading voice within Malta’s anti-poverty movement, leading work to reform the rental market and raise the minimum wage up until his passing.
Mr Cassar’s comments, coming years after their deaths, served as a timely reminder of the pair’s altruistic world view and commitment to justice, which continue to have an impact on people’s lives even now.
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