Surely reinvigorating open market would benefit the whole island?
THE Open Market Forum wishes to respond to the anonymous letter entitled ‘Changes to open market were widely discussed – and overdue’ printed on 1 May.
The OMF represents all open market owners and has in excess of 700 members, representing over 600 OM properties, very few of whom are multi-occupancy (Part D) owners. Our key objective is the reversal of the damage to the OM from seven years of uncertainty during the consultation and development of the Population Management Law and Open Market Housing Law 2017. All islanders suffer as a result of this damage, OM and local market residents alike.
Those seeking a beautiful and safe place to live with compliant but favourable tax regimes continue to relocate their wealth and businesses to our neighbours. Jersey, the Isle of Man, Gibraltar and Monaco are benefiting from Guernsey’s prolonged uncertainty. With them go opportunities for diversification, jobs and opportunities for local financial and legal advisers, the construction and other industries. Guernsey is losing millions in document duty revenues, millions in direct and indirect taxation and Social Security revenues and so on. Companies like Specsavers and Aquastar would not be here had their founders relocated elsewhere.
The only thing that has produced any level of diversification in recent decades is the OM and its capacity as an ‘economic enabler or catalyst’ has benefited us all. Islanders can be assured the OMF’s focus is far wider than the minority multi-occupancy concerns. These facts are from both the law and the largest ever OM survey and we offer them as a counterbalance to the opinion and allegations of a single letter:
n 94 per cent of our membership (700+) were not consulted prior to the changes in the laws governing the OM. There were PML consultations but public discussions focused almost entirely (and rightly) on the wider-reaching and highly emotive local birth right components;
n There were no consultations regarding the changes to the open market;
n At no point were OM owners advised of the retrospective removal of their property rights either before OR after the enactment of the PML/Open Market Housing Law 2017 (and the OMF sends hard copy letters to all OM owners, which is neither difficult nor costly).
n The only OM change that was widely publicised concerned the letting of Part A OM properties as multi-occupancy houses;
n The States did not inform OM owners or local residents that many OM Part D tenants would be granted LM permits, resulting in hundreds of formerly OM tenants moving to LM accommodation;
n Your reader’s letter incorrectly suggests that the use of OM properties to house unrelated adults was an abuse of the housing system. Multiple-occupancy houses exist in both the LM and OM and are governed by a planning ordinance that states that a property may be occupied by up to six non-related parties;
n This sector was abused by some landlords in both the LM and OM. However, in almost all cases the States failed to enforce existing legislation. Sadly these few rogue landlords (LM and OM) negatively affected the perception of the whole rental sector.
It is entirely inaccurate to suggest that the OM multiple -occupancy house sector was filled with lower-skilled labour. Many OM multiple-occupancy houses were populated by finance sector employees, civil servants, those who did not merit a LM licence or who had come to the end of their five-year LM licence and wished to stay. It is correct that anyone could live in OM property and stay for as long as they wished. It is also correct to state that the laws relating to skilled and essential workers were very stringent. It is not however the ‘fault’ of the OM that this was the case, as was intimated. The two are unrelated; teachers and other highly skilled personnel were perfectly free to live in any OM house without time restrictions and some did and still do.
With the introduction of the PML, a much larger number and wider range of eligible workers are now being granted short-, medium- and long-term employment permits, allowing them to live in any LM property. For those workers who are not granted a LM permit, OM Part D accommodation is their only option and they contribute hugely to our economy. Without them the island’s hospitality and care home sectors, to name but two, would suffer enormously.
Your reader suggests that many multi-occupancy properties are located inappropriately near other houses on a clos or indeed Fort George.
A house in multi-occupancy does not mean it is below standard or run to the detriment of the immediate local environment. That is dependent on the occupants themselves and the landlord, not the status of the house, and applies to both LM and OM properties.
Neighbours can easily make contact with the owners, in the case of an OM property quickly found via an online search of the Open Market Register, to report their concerns.
The States have always had the power to inspect LM and OM multiple-occupancy houses and enforce compliance where necessary but for the most part have chosen not to. We have questioned this many times.
Application of existing laws would have eliminated most of the multi-occupancy issues.
Some people inaccurately state that OM rentals are scandalous and that multi-occupancy property owners take advantage of lower-skilled workers. Of course, OM share houses are dearer than LM shares – the property itself likely cost more in the first place – and sadly in both the LM and OM there are fair and unfair landlords.
The comment ‘the rest of the community suffer and support the people who live in multi-occupancy houses’ is incorrect. The financial contribution to the island from multi-occupancy houses, especially OM share houses, is often far greater than average as all occupants are working and paying taxes. The PML introduced a legal cap of 205 OM Part D properties which are all eligible for a one-way transfer back to Part A on request. Supply and demand will likely determine what owners choose to do.
Interestingly, the property ‘winners’ in the PML/Open Market Housing Law 2017 are the former lodging houses as they can now offer five-year residency to their tenants as part of the new Part D Register when previously this was only nine months.
In all this detail it is important not to forget that the original purpose of the OM was to protect LM property for locals. The PML negates this by granting hundreds of formerly OM residents with LM permits to live in LM accommodation which, in turn, reduces availability, increases rental prices and is likely to translate into purchase prices over time. Something we have warned deputies about for some time.
Fortunately the effect has been slightly mitigated by a reported increase in LM rental stock, but for how long?
We hope we have clarified the purpose of the OMF – reinvigoration of the whole of the OM for the benefit of the whole island – and should anyone have concerns regarding the erosion of Part A rights, issues surrounding OM Part D houses or ideas to reinvigorate the OM we would be happy to communicate with them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OMF FOUNDER MEMBERS