Social housing could be sold to its tenants

SOCIAL housing could be sold to qualifying islanders for 75% of the market value.

Chief minister Peter Ferbrache headed up the amendment. (Picture by James Black, 30986661)
Chief minister Peter Ferbrache headed up the amendment. (Picture by James Black, 30986661)

Under a scheme put forward through an amendment from senior figures within Policy & Resources, the Guernsey Housing Association would have the first option to buy back, and the money from the sales would be used to fund new social housing developments.

Deputy Peter Ferbrache headed up an amendment which extended one successfully led by Deputy Peter Roffey, which initially only included future housing developments.

He said the scheme would meet the aspirations of social housing tenants, opening them up to the possibility of home ownership.

‘If you own a property you look after it better, you have more pride in it – that is no criticism of people, it is a truism,’ he said.

While Deputy Roffey said he was told by the GHA it would not be open to selling existing stock, Deputy Ferbrache said it could end in interference with the social housing group’s autonomy.

‘Sometimes you have to intervene and look at the rights of others. I would hope, because they are good, reasonable people who have done a really good job over 20 years, they would accommodate reasonable discussions and a practical solution could be reached.’

But Deputy Roffey described the amendment as ‘borderline wicked’ and said it would increase rent-induced poverty.

He said he was not against selling off rental stock, but now was not the time, with rent-induced poverty remaining one of the biggest issues faced by the island.

‘If we ever find ourselves in the sunlit uplands where we have plenty of accommodation for those who need it, for whom there are no other housing options then fine, but we are light years away from that position.

‘We have hundreds of households on the waiting list for social housing right now, behind each of those applicants there is a story... they are genuine and often tragic. What message would we be sending if we start talking about flogging

off social housing we already own?’

Deputy Mark Helyar, who seconded the amendment, said it was an opportunity to reverse-engineer some of the island’s social problems.

‘If people own their own houses they take responsibility for them. We’re not talking about people who have been living in them a few months or few weeks, we are talking decades. They have paid time and time again with their rent but they have got nothing for it because they have been kept, by the government’s own rules, poor. They were not allowed to do any better for themselves, they were not allowed to step up.’

But Deputy Tina Bury said tenants did not always aspire to own a home, instead thinking first about how they could afford food.

‘This scheme does not apply to our social rental tenants. The criteria and eligibility for social rental is really low income.’

She spoke of when she experienced in-work poverty, earning £2,000 a month, £1,000 of it going on rent and £500 being spent on childcare.

‘I didn’t qualify – people in social rental aren’t suddenly going to be able to buy a property even if it is at 75% of the value.

‘This proposition does suggest we take it out of the stock and turn it into a 75% purchase.’

Deputies approved the amendment 23 votes to eight.

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