Friday 06 April 2012
The Housing Department has received various media enquiries concerning vacant social housing properties in Guernsey, and in particular, the Cour du Parc building. The Department's response to these enquiries is below.
The Housing Bulletin highlights the number of social housing properties (76) that are considered to be vacant. However, as the Bulletin makes clear this is based on electricity consumption data over the year ending mid-November 2011, rather than any check on whether they are physically unoccupied.
With this in mind, further analysis of the properties making up this figure reveals that:
12 properties were newly refurbished or newly built units by the Guernsey Housing Association, which had recently been completed and which were therefore short-term vacancies pending allocation;
6 properties were vacated pending redevelopment of the site of the Housing Department's residential care home at Maison Maritaine by the Guernsey Housing Association (due to commence this summer);
9 properties were identified as being unoccupied due to their low electricity consumption, but were in fact tenanted during 2011;
2 properties were vacant and undergoing a full refurbishment;
4 properties have been identified as 'incompatible' within the social housing stock and are therefore no longer considered suitable for social housing or economic to retain or refurbish. Preparations are actively being made to market these properties for sale, but this requires the successful resolution of a number of complex conveyancing issues, which can take time to resolve; and
1 property was handed back by the Housing Department to the Treasury and Resources Department in 2011, i.e. it is no longer classed as social housing.
The above accounts for 34 of the 76 properties reported to be "empty"; of the remainder
42 flats are vacant at Cour du Parc, pending a final decision on the future use of this building.
As previously made public, due to ongoing problems with the condition of the property and the recurrent problems experienced with the single lift servicing the building, a decision was taken by the Housing board to vacate Cour du Parc as it was no longer considered safe or suitable to be used for social housing. Tenants were allocated alternative accommodation elsewhere in the social housing stock.
Regrettably, in order for the property to be fit for habitation in the long-term, Cour du Parc needs extensive refurbishment and upgrading. The flats need to be rewired; new kitchens and bathrooms are required in the majority of the flats; balconies need to be enclosed for health and safety reasons; external cladding is required; the central heating system requires replacement; the communal areas require complete renovation; and a second lift is required.
These are major works requiring significant financial investment and thus in conjunction with the Treasury and Resources Department, an options appraisal was commissioned to determine the best long-term use of the site. However, because of the heavy demands and time pressures which have been placed upon the Department's resources to move forward a number of other high priority development opportunities, it was decided that the options appraisal was a lower priority than providing applicants for social housing with new, purpose-built accommodation on a number of sites across the Island.
Thus, as a result of the successful ongoing partnership that the Housing Department enjoys with the Guernsey Housing Association, the construction of 257 new homes for social rent, partial ownership and 'extra care' will commence in 2012. This will see an investment of over £55 million into the provision of new accommodation to meet the needs of low income households in the Island. These schemes include: 'Le Clos Barbier' in St. Martin's, which will deliver 24 homes for rent; the redevelopment of Phase 2 of the Grand Bouet Estate ('Route de la Nouvelle') to provide 80 homes, of which 26 will be made available for the Partial Ownership Scheme; and the redevelopment of the former Boys' Grammar School at Brock Road, which will commence in the autumn, will provide 40 new units.
It is also intended that the Guernsey Housing Association will also commence the redevelopment of the Housing Department's Longue Rue and Maison Maritaine sites in the summer, which will provide 113 units of 'extra care' housing with communal facilities.
Whilst it is therefore regrettable that determining the most appropriate future for Cour du Parc has not progressed as quickly as the Department would have liked, this is because staff have been fully engaged on moving forward a range of development opportunities that, together, will deliver a significant of new homes for social rent and partial ownership over the next 12 to 24 months. Nonetheless, work continues on the options appraisal with a view to making a firm decision on the future of Cour du Parc, once all necessary investigations have been completed.
Tel: 01481 717000