Friday 11 September 2015
The Housing Department will next month ask the States to set the Island's first affordable housing target.
If the target is agreed, the Department and the Guernsey Housing Association will aim to provide an average of 171 new units of affordable housing each year from 2016 to 2020.
The affordable housing will be a mixture of social rented properties and partial ownership properties, and is expected to be provided by the Guernsey Housing Association using private finance and grants from the Corporate Housing Programme Fund.
The Department will also recommend that the States retains the existing Strategic Housing Target. In place since 2002, the Target - set at 300 dwellings a year - represents the number of additional homes that the States considers should be created each year if the Island is to meet ongoing housing requirements. The affordable housing target of 171 forms part of the overall 300.
The Housing Department's Deputy Minister, Deputy Hadley, said:
"It is important to emphasise that maintaining the strategic housing target at 300 new dwellings per year does not necessarily mean building 300 brand new properties each year on undeveloped land. The target may be met by some new build but it will also be achieved by redeveloping, converting and sub-dividing existing properties on previously developed land."
Maintaining the target at this level is also supported by the Environment Department and has been used as the base for its land allocations in preparing the draft Island Development Plan.
Informing the Department's recommendation is the 2011 Housing Needs Study, which identified that Guernsey would need to create enough additional dwellings to accommodate an average of 451 households a year if Islanders' housing requirements were to be met.
Deputy Hadley explained why the Housing Department decided against recommending a strategic housing target in line with the Study's findings:
"When calculating its housing requirement figure, the Study includes households that are adequately housed but want to move and households living in multi-occupancy dwellings. This runs counter to both existing housing and planning policy, and we felt that if we recommended a target of 451 we risked overstating housing requirement in Guernsey."
For the first time, the Housing Department is recommending that the strategic housing target be subdivided into two categories - one relating to the the provision of private sector market housing (129 dwellings), and the other to affordable housing (171 dwellings).
Deputy Hadley explained:
"By agreeing the affordable housing target the States would be demonstrating their commitment to the provision of affordable housing, whilst at the same time setting a very clear direction for the Housing Department and its successor.
An affordable housing target promotes accountability and helps the States make decisions on the allocation of funds and land for the development of much-needed affordable housing."
In seeking to meet this affordable housing target, the Housing Department and the Guernsey Housing Association will look constantly for opportunities to acquire developable land at a reasonable price. Deputy Hadley said:
"We're under no illusion that we need more than just States-owned sites if we're to help the Guernsey Housing Association create 171 affordable housing units per year. It is absolutely essential that we acquire land by means of the Affordable Housing Policy being proposed by the Environment Department as part of the new Island Development Plan. Even then, we're going to have to buy private land too.
Unless we can find enough land to meet the 171 target, affordable housing waiting lists will increase significantly and more people will be forced to live in accommodation that they can't afford and which fails to meet their needs."
Deputy Hadley dismissed allegations from opponents of the new Affordable Housing Policy that the Department was overstating the need for affordable housing.
"Tell that to the hundreds of people on the waiting list for social housing, or for a partial ownership property. Combined these waiting lists currently stand at almost 500 households.
These affordable housing waiting lists fluctuate because new applicants are always being housed and new applicants are always coming forward. Despite the Guernsey Housing Association's nonstop build programme, families on low and middle incomes continue to need help.
"It's not as straightforward as saying that the affordable housing waiting list has 500 households on it, therefore we need to build 500 units and the problem's solved. Need continually evolves, which is exactly why we commission regular Housing Needs Studies - to see what's round the corner."
The 2011 Housing Needs Study was made public in 2012 and is attached to the Housing Department's policy letter which will be debated later this month. Available here.
In the context of this Policy Letter, 'Affordable Housing' is defined as social rented housing, partial ownership housing or any other housing scheme reliant on some form of subsidy to assist persons unable to afford to rent or purchase outright in the general housing market.