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Plea for action after positive housing review

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KPMG’s housing policy recommendations are ‘a welcome injection of realism into the property debate’, industry figures have said.

Charles McHugh. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 19180621)

Now that the long-awaited housing market review has been published, they have urged deputies to ‘get on with it’ so that its findings do not become out of date.

Developer Charles McHugh said the review had ‘far reaching-consequences and should reverse many of the adverse consequences that resulted from the IDP [Island Development Plan]’.

Most significantly, the report concludes that a maximum of 157 additional housing units are required per year by 2021, considerably fewer than the current States target of 300.

‘Pleasingly, the report recommends much-needed market intervention and several possible options to help first-time buyers (FTBs) and older people. The report recognises the key importance of FTBs and a stable housing market for the health of the island’s economy generally,’ said Mr McHugh.

‘No doubt this report will be the subject of much hot debate in the months ahead before any proposals are brought before the States. Let’s hope that’s not too long a process.

‘The overhang of a new-build housing target of 300 homes per year has unwittingly been acting as a drag anchor on the private market for too long and deterring private housebuilding rather than encouraging it.’

SPF managing director Pierre Blampied said the review was an ‘overwhelmingly positive move for the market’.

However, while KPMG advises cutting document duty and bond fees for FTB’s, he said there are many who would prefer a first-time buyers’ deposit scheme (FTBDS).

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‘Whilst we are supportive of the majority of the recommendations, there remain questions as to whether or not the proposals form the best option both for first-time buyers themselves and for Guernsey’s taxpayers as a whole.

‘At a time when they [the States] are already concerned about how they will recoup tax across the economy, it seems a little odd that we are considering “writing off” income from property sales when there is a cash-positive option available.’

‘A FTBDS would offer a larger cash injection and, with the States as lender, even at a very low rate of interest, the tax-payer would be getting something back.’

Scrutiny Management Committee president Deputy Chris Green said the report ‘contains a good analysis of the problems of the housing market and it does have some very encouraging suggestions, including specified intervention to help first-time buyers in, for example, dis-applying document duty and bond fees for FTB.

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‘But the report in itself is only words. What we now need to see is proper action,’ he said. ‘The key is for the States to deliver an action plan to intervene wisely in the local housing market and, more specifically, to help first-time buyers get on the property ladder.

‘The review cannot be allowed to be put on a shelf and gather dust. The long-awaited report must lead to a full States debate and then effective delivery within a relatively short time period.

‘The cost of the report was nearly £100,000 of taxpayers’ money, so we need to see practical measures and practical benefits flowing from this useful, albeit expensive, report and soon.’

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