The Committee for Employment & Social Security and the Policy & Resources Committee could investigate whether both current and future housing, owned and managed by the Guernsey Housing Association, could be sold at a 25% discount.
Initially, an amendment to the GWP, laid by Deputies Peter Roffey and Lindsay de Sausmarez, was passed with strong support by the States Assembly. It looks to investigate applying the discount to qualifying purchasers solely on future affordable housing developments.
But following a last-minute successful amendment from Deputies Peter Ferbrache and Mark Helyar, the scheme must now also look at the current housing stock.
Under the second amendment, P&R will also investigate whether the States could sponsor mortgages, loans and financing options for deposits and property purchases.
Supporters say it will promote home ownership and aspiration to those currently living in some type of social housing. Opponents say many of those people will not be able to afford their properties and will reduce the number of available homes at a time where supply fails to meet demand.
The committees must now report back to the States “as soon as practical with proposals for a scheme.”
Pictured: Deputies Peter Roffey and Lindsay de Sausmarez laid and supported the first amendment, but argued strongly against the second.
The first amendment made provisions for purchasers to pay no rent since there would be freehold ownership of the property, and restrictions on resale ensuring homes are not sold for more than 75% of their resale value.
Introducing the amendment, Deputy Roffey said just subsidising purchase at full market value would “stoke housing prices even more”.
Deputy Roffey confirmed the Guernsey Housing Association said the scheme would be possible, and that many other jurisdictions operate similar successful schemes pointing to Jersey’s Andium Homes.
He also said that mortgage lenders have been consulted and are “more than happy” for the sale of properties in this way.
“The detail still needs to be worked up and approved… we’re going to have to deploy officer resource,” he said.
Deputy Roffey said the proposals would not alter the Island Development Plan or affordable housing policy GP11.
Deputy Peter Ferbrache called the amendment “constructive… there’s no one way in solving the crisis". He also compared Deputy Roffey to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for his attempts to encourage home ownership.
Pictured: Deputy Peter Ferbrache threw his support behind both schemes.
Deputy Lyndon Trott strongly supported the amendment: “This is not an original thought; this happens elsewhere, and it works elsewhere.
“It’s a way of ensuring we don’t produce a scenario where suddenly we have a significant correction in house prices and the negative equity scenario which could occur. This protects against that.”
He did question who would qualify for the scheme, and who would determine the value of the properties – but said he expects significant debate over the details when it returns to the Assembly in a policy letter.
But Deputy Neil Inder expressed serious concerns about the GHA competing to a greater level with private developers.
“Future housing cold be discounted at 25%, then discount it again at 25% making a dominant developer in our market,” he said.
“I wouldn’t get too excited about this… what message is that sending to the private sector? The government is coming and we’re going to undercut you.”
But Deputy Trott said the GHA is already the principal developer of property in the island and played down concerns: “The assets are vested back into States ownership should anything go wrong."
Deputy de Sausmarez also rejected Deputy Inder’s claim, saying properties would only be sold to qualifying purchasers: “The GHA will not accept applicants who can buy on the ordinary housing market."
She added that the amendment would broaden the housing market and make it more accessible for islanders.
Pictured: Deputy Lyndon Trott thinks a discount on homes is an acceptable and not revolutionary concept.
Deputy Nick Moakes said the amendment provides aspiration but said the GHA’s current income cap does not deliver aspiration.
He pointed out the cap has been suspended but only until the end of the year: “People need to know what happens at the end of the year."
Deputy Tina Bury said it could provide a useful tool, and suggested she is the only member of Assembly currently on the partial ownership waiting list.
She claimed whilst those properties do not require “large deposit or advocate fees” the scheme would incur those costs, but savings would be made in other areas and therefore “would capture different people”.
Closing the debate, Deputy Roffey reiterated that political factionalism sometimes stops members from voting on good proposals.
He added the scheme represented “very significant differences to partial ownership.”
Deputy Ferbrache also worried that “personal games which exist in this Assembly” could affect the delivery of the amendment which he called “a good policy for the people of Guernsey”.
However, amendment two was passed by 30 votes to one. Four deputies abstained and another four were absent.
Pictured: Deputy Neil Inder was fearful that the GHA would adversely compete with private developers in the market.
Deputy Ferbrache, proposer of the second amendment, said it is “an expansion” of what was previously discussed in that it encourages investigation of whether to sell existing social housing, rather than future developments.
Deputy Roffey said the amendment “absolutely appalls” him, and argued the timing was poor in the context of a current lack of supply of affordable housing. He added: “It would increase rent induced poverty in the island."
He also accused P&R of not consulting the GHA, saying they are not prepared to sell any of their houses.
Deputy de Sausmarez agreed, saying people’s needs are currently not being met, and that selling the existing stock would not necessarily advantage those currently living in the homes.
Deputy Inder rebutted saying the amendment is “just asking for a consideration of all the stock".
Seconder and P&R’s Treasury lead, Deputy Helyar, said the state needs to “be involved in this process”, and suggested that if existing homes are transferred, they could retain their affordable housing status.
Pictured: Deputy Mark Helyar emphasised that the amendment only demands the sale of the existing housing stock to be reviewed.
Deputy John Dyke claimed the current mix of social housing does not meet the needs of the population. He said there is an excess of three-bedroom houses, and smaller and larger properties are required.
“This seems an ideal route to reduce those numbers,” he said.
Deputy Charles Parkinson said the scheme “might be more acceptable if there was some provision… that there should not be any reduction in the total number of social housing available”.
Several deputies argued that each existing property sold could contribute to building new, high-quality affordable homes.
Deputy Al Brouard suggested the scheme would not require all of the States’ properties to be sold.
Deputy John Gollop, whilst saying the amendment was rushed with “no consultation”, accepted that it could make housing estates “more middle Guernsey”.
But Deputy Roffey reiterated throughout that “virtually none of the existing tenants are in a position to raise the money to buy their own home”.
Pictured: Deputy Tina Bury said some deputies are out of touch with what aspirations means to some islanders.
Deputy Bury argued that ‘aspiration’ holds a different definition for different individuals.
“Aspiration is knowing where next weeks’ food shopping is coming from for some… this scheme does not apply to social renting tenants even if they are sold at 75%,” she said.
Deputy Ferbrache closed debate by saying: “There isn’t one solution that fits all… the general truth is if you own a property you look after it better."
Amendment 12 was passed by 23 votes to eight. Four deputies abstained and another four were absent. General debate on the GWP continues...
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