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MALTATODAY 21 November 2021

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NEWS 12 21 NOVEMBER 2021 F irst-time buyers will be eligible for a €15,000 grant when buying any property in the urban conservation area (UCA). UCAs are designated areas in village cores which are given additional protec- tion from development in terms of build- ing heights and are generally protected from demolition works. e benefit is aimed at redirecting the construction industry towards the reha- bilitation of vacant and dilapidated build- ings and will also apply to buyers of any property which has been vacant for more than seven years and which was built over 20 years ago, irrespective of where the property is located. e incentive will also apply to those buying new properties built in tradition- al Maltese architecture. It is not clear whether this will also apply to properties build on undeveloped land. e grant for first time buyers will be raised to €30,000 when the property is lo- cated in Gozo. e measure also contemplates the complete removal of capital gains tax and stamp duties on the first €750,000 in the price of these three types of properties. To ensure that these measures will not fuel speculation, new rules will come in place to forbid the division of these prop- erties in different units. e measures contemplated in this budget represent a more robust and ambitious package over similar but less comprehensive measures introduced in different budgets over the past decade, which so far have yielded limited results. e budget singles out the construc- tion sector for its impact on the environ- ment and commits the government to introduce a licensing system for building contractors through which the state can "strong-arm" those who abuse, not only in the way they build but also in the way they treat workers on their sites. e li- censing system will also include quality certification, which rewards those who engage in good and sustainable practices. e budget also recognises the short- comings of this government in regulating the sector but also extends the blame on the opposition, singling out the extension of building boundaries in 2006. But no commitment is given on a re- form of planning regulations and local plans to restrain over development except for a proposed new policy on aesthetics through which government will "encour- age more uniform and comprehensive development". e government is also committed to draft a building code to regulate demo- lition and excavation works and protect third party rights. e reform foresees the appointment of a Construction Project Manager who will be responsible for works on these build- ing sites. e government is also committed on a €20 million investment over five years in the afforestation of the Inwadar Park in Żonqor point; but no reference is made to the 18,000sq.m of ODZ land allocated to the American University of Malta in 2015. e budget also refers to investment number of urban green spaces in various localities like Zabbar, Qormi, Hamrun and Mosta. e government will also continue its studies on the pedestrianisation of St Anne Street in Floriana. e Ta' Qali park will also be including a €4 million drainage and potable water treatment plant to cater for the park's ir- rigation needs. As regards air quality the budget re- states the commitment to implement the ship to shore project in both the Grand Harbour and the Free Port. To encourage more sustainable behav- iour, the government will also be distrib- uting starter kits of sustainable products for newborns. BUDGET MEASURES ON UCAs INTRODUCED FOLLOWING MDA RECOMMENDATIONS FIRST-TIME BUYERS WHO BUY A HOME IN VILLAGE CORE WILL GET €15,000 GRANT

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