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3,000+ new housing units needed if deputies back population growth

3,000+ new housing units needed if deputies back population growth

Thursday 15 September 2022

3,000+ new housing units needed if deputies back population growth

Thursday 15 September 2022

Plans to relax population controls and encourage more workers into the island could nearly double the number of new housing units required in the next 20 years.

The States estimate that maintaining net inward migration at an average of 100 people per year – the level experienced over the past 12 years – would require 1,760 new housing units by 2040.

But boosting net inward migration to an average of 300 per year – which deputies are expected to vote on next month – would require an estimated 3,370 new housing units by 2040.


Pictured: This chart, published by the States, estimates the range of new housing units which would need to be built depending on the level of immigration into the island. More detailed housing figures will be debated by deputies early next year once they have voted on the proposed new population policy.

The proposal to assume the higher level of net inward migration is being put forward to the States' Assembly by the Committee for Home Affairs after an extensive review of population policies and economic needs involving multiple States' committees.

The Committee estimates that its proposals would maintain the working-age population at around 31,000 and increase the total size of the population by approximately 4,000 to around 68,000 by the year 2051.

The Committee's policy letter addresses the additional pressure on the island's infrastructure if inward migration increases as well as the economic challenges if it does not.

"Even if there are vacancies in the employment market and people willing to fill them, the population cannot expand if there is nowhere suitable for people to live," said the Committee.

"The implication is that if sustaining the island's economy and public services requires a higher level of net migration, it also requires more residential accommodation and the infrastructure to support it."


Pictured: The President of the Committee for Home Affairs, Deputy Rob Prow (inset), will present the policy letter proposing that the States should aim for a higher level of immigration to help prevent a reduction in the size of the workforce but is also warning the States about the effects of population growth on the island's infrastructure. 

The policy letter estimates the area of land required for new housing units at different levels of net inward migration - and acknowledges that population growth at the level proposed could require additional land for housing equivalent to three-quarters of the size of the commons at L'Ancresse. 

"To accommodate an average net migration level of +300 per year, a total of between 31 and 84 hectares – in other words, between 41 and 114 football fields, or 25% and 75% of L’Ancresse commons – would need to be allocated to housing development by 2040," said the Committee.

"It is, therefore, likely that there will be a substantial requirement to develop land, including likely green field sites, if the current model of building in terms of building heights, density, and off-street parking is continued. This may mean that there is a requirement to refocus in terms of building form and density in order to minimise the impacts of substantial levels of new residential development."

This implies that encouraging population growth would require the States to choose between building more housing on green fields or changing the island's approach to new housing, such as building upwards more than building outwards. 

The Committee also advises that the much higher level of immigration for which it wants the island to prepare "may lead to an increased impact on social rental housing, which could negatively impact the long social housing waiting lists and result in the requirement for more social housing".

And it warns of the need for other infrastructure development alongside a big homebuilding programme. 

"The provision of further housing needs not only physical space to build, but capacity within the transport and utility networks and services, as well as access to open space and amenity areas, to service these additional households. If development is not planned to align with the desired population policy, efforts to encourage skilled individuals to the island will be limited by its ability to accommodate them."


Pictured: Changing population policies to encourage a higher level of immigration could require additional land for new housing equivalent to up to three-quarters of the size of the commons at L'Ancresse - unless the island is prepared to build upwards. 

The policy letter also assesses the impact of immigration on local market property prices.

"The size and make-up of the population has a direct impact on the demand for housing in Guernsey, but there is often a delay before this is evident in pricing data," said the Committee.

"The period of net emigration [more people leaving the island than arriving] which occurred between 2012 and 2017 was followed by falling prices in real terms in both local market rental prices and property prices. The period of net immigration [more people arriving than leaving] recorded since late 2017 has, at a slight lag, led to an increase in both rental and purchase prices."

The Committee puts this down largely to "Guernsey’s increased economic stability and attractiveness as a jurisdiction to relocate to, particularly as a consequence of the [covid] pandemic".


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