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Action for Housing clashes with Govt over ‘direct allocation’

Action for Housing clashes with Govt over ‘direct allocation’

Action for Housing yesterday accused Housing Minister Samantha Sacramento of directly allocating a one-bedroom flat to a person who was ranked low on the housing list and had no exceptional circumstances to warrant a priority allocation.

The group said it had been approached by the applicant and was aware of the circumstances in the case, adding it was “perplexed” by news that a property had been directly allocated in a move that made “a complete mockery” of the system.

But the group’s statement drew a stern response from the Gibraltar Government, which explained the circumstances of the case and denied that the minister had been directly involved.

In a statement, the Ministry for Housing and Equality accused Action for Housing of being “on an unreasonable vendetta” and insisted procedures had been properly followed throughout.

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Action for Housing said it had looked into the circumstances of the case after it was approached by the applicant and had established there were no medical, social or exceptional circumstances to justify allocating a property over others waiting on the list.

“When we asked the minister for an explanation she informed us that she could not

divulge such information because this could result in a data protection breach,” the group said.

“If this is the case it means that the minister has a free hand to allocate flats to applicants over and above the next entitled ones on the waiting lists without any need for
explanation.”

“This makes a complete mockery of the existing criteria applied by the Housing
Department to applicants which involves assessing each application, awarding points
as befits the merits and conditions made available and verified and then placing each
applicant on the corresponding waiting list.”

“It is a system that guarantees fairness, impartiality and accountability.”

“In our correspondence to the minister we said that her direct involvement in this
allocation discredits the integrity of the Housing Department and fosters a regrettable
growing feeling in the community that there are instances when allocations are made
wilfully other than on merit.”

“Action for Housing will continue to bring to the attention of the general public any abuse of power and lack of accountability in the allocation of government housing.”
But last night, the Ministry for Ministry for Housing and Equality refuted the group’s version of events.

It said officials had met with the applicant, who argued his particular circumstances merited consideration for social allocation and that he met the criteria to be expedited an allocation.

“The allocation was made by the Housing Department in the normal way because procedures allow for age, medical conditions and current living conditions to be taken into account,” the ministry said.
“At no time did the Minister for Housing meet with the individual and nor is he known to her.”

At the same time, a bedsit flat became available after it had been rejected on numerous occasions for being too small, the ministry said, adding that the property had been offered to the applicant who immediately accepted it.

The ministry added that Action for Housing had “unprecedented access” to the Housing Department and meets with the Principal Housing Officer and her staff monthly to present cases of applicants whose allocations they believe should be expedited

“It is ironic that Action for Housing have, on previous occasions, asked both the minister and the Housing Department for allocations in particular cases to be expedited even though they are not top of the list,” the ministry said.

“The further irony is that this flat was previously offered to another applicant who was not top of the list following representations by Action for Housing on her behalf – and she rejected the flat.”

“The final irony is that Action for Housing had themselves also made representations for this individual to be expedited as well.”

“Therefore, the situation belies the total hypocrisy manifested by Action for Housing.”

“Action for Housing are trying to insinuate that there has been collusion or special treatment by the minister [but] this is not the case as the minister has never met with this individual.”
“It is abundantly clear that, in this case, the processes that exist to assist people who are in social need were applied perfectly correctly by the department.”

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