Deputy Peter Ferbrache would like to see around 1,600 States' houses sold to the Guernsey Housing Association and the sale proceeds used to help individuals and families buy homes in the private or partial ownership sectors.
The President of the Policy & Resources Committee says this is the kind of "big idea" which is necessary to alleviate affordability problems in Guernsey's housing market, which the Committee has said it wants the States to make their number one priority for the remainder of their term of office.
In a wide-ranging interview for the latest Express podcast, Deputy Ferbrache said: "What I would do…all the social housing should be transferred to the Guernsey Housing Association. They have shown that they run it very well - they’re brilliant."
LISTEN: Deputy Peter Ferbrache sat down for an extensive interview with Express' Senior Reporter, Matt Fallaize.
“That would get in £200million – or whatever the figure is – I’m just saying £200m," said Deputy Ferbrache
"This would be ring-fenced so it doesn’t go into general capital to build a new school or build a hospital wing. It’s ring-fenced for housing. The States [then] buy up land at reasonable prices. Developers wouldn’t be allowed to make unreasonable profits. And that would be for Mr Le Page or Mrs Le Page to have the opportunity for either partial ownership and / or buying a plot.
"People used to buy a plot and get their mates to come round [to help build]. I know it’s all very difficult with builders being chock-a-block with work at the moment, but this would take a period of years. It would give people hope and aspiration and people should have hope and aspiration. I don’t think we have enough of that now.
"I think that’s a big lever - £200m – even in the 21st century, that’s a big chunk of money. And you’re not talking about giving it away. None of this is going to happen tomorrow, but it gives people hope."
The average house price in Guernsey is around 16 times the average earnings of a single person, a figure which Deputy Ferbrache said was "absolutely ridiculous".
Pictured: The Guernsey Housing Association already manages a proportion of the island's stock of social, partial ownership and key worker housing. Deputy Peter Ferbrache would like the Association to buy around 1,600 States' houses and for the sale proceeds to be ring-fenced to help alleviate affordability problems in the private sector.
Deputy Ferbrache has held Guernsey's most senior political role since October 2020. He told Express that the States under his leadership are showing some signs of fulfilling his challenge to be known as the "States of action". And he cited a public/private partnership to put fibre broadband into almost every property by the end of 2026 as the States' most notable achievement so far.
"That’s a five-year project of £37.5m – the States put in a third of it and Sure put in the rest. That’s already going full pelt and well," said Deputy Ferbrache.
"That was something that hadn’t really progressed under the last States. We’ve pushed it – it’s not just me – it’s not just Peter Ferbrache – it’s the people in the States. The Policy & Resources Committee and the Committee for Economic Development members have pushed that across the line."
Deputy Ferbrache remains confident that the States will buy a ferry during 2022.
"I think we will get the boat," he said. "It is taking a bit longer than I said at the Scrutiny meeting earlier in the year. But I think that will come. The Guernsey Investment Fund will, I think, advance the funds and there will be a boat.
"I was certain it was going to happen. I can’t see any reason why it shouldn’t. We’ve still got seven and a half months to go of this year. I’d be very disappointed if that didn’t happen. But it will happen."
Pictured: Deputy Peter Ferbrache is confident that the Policy & Resources Committee will have secured another vessel for the island by the end of the year to provide additional resilience to the fleet operated by Condor Ferries.
The Policy & Resources Committee is projecting that States' reserves will be exhausted by the end of the current political term and that expenditure will exceed income by up to £85million a year in a few years' time.
The Committee has proposed a goods and services tax (GST) set at 8% or 5% as a better way of dealing with the projected shortfall than raising income tax and social security contributions or making substantial cuts to expenditure.
Deputy Febrache said that trying to persuade the island of the need for GST was his toughest challenge in nearly 12 years in politics across four States' terms.
"This is the most important. This is what pays the bills. This is what tells people whether we can invest in our capital infrastructure and whether we can meet all the health costs, which will grow," he said.
"Now when I gave a periodic update to the States…I said to those who just say 'smaller government', give us examples. Don’t just say we want smaller government – cut 50 civil servants or 100 civil servants – say how, where and when and what the cost of that would be.
"Or, if you want certain things excised so that the States don’t provide this, that or the other, you say what it is. The officers are there available to you. They are not under my command. They will give you such assistance as is possible...so you go along and, if you’ve got an idea, put it to them and they will do as much analysis as they can."
Pictured: Deputy Peter Ferbrache is warning the States that they will soon "run out of road" and need to make firm choices between raising taxes or cutting public spending to avoid an unsustainable deficit in public finances beyond the end of their current term of office in 2025.
Deputy Ferbrache rejects suggestions that he and his Committee's Treasury Lead, Deputy Mark Helyar, are unlikely to secure the approval of the States' Assembly for GST when it is debated again towards the end of the year, but he admits that "it will be difficult".
He said that rejection of GST or alternative tax rises capable of generating additional income of around £85million a year would probably leave his Committee with no choice but to return to the States in 2023 with a programme of significant spending cuts to balance the books in the medium to long term.
You can listen to the full interview with Deputy Ferbrache HERE.
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