Guernsey Press

Stop banging ‘affordable housing’ drum as excuse to concrete over crowded areas

IT WAS interesting to note there are now calls for a review of housing policy following the latest thoughts being published about where the next lot of housing is to be built. We are now getting to the difficult bit after having stuffed Vale, St Sampson’s and St Peter Port to over capacity.

Last updated

The housing is supposed to be ‘affordable’, whatever that means, and ideally cater for first-time buyers and essential workers. I do not know how either of those two objectives can be met. Recent quotes for building work at my house suggest that even for a very modest house with two rooms downstairs, the footings alone would cover over £250,000 and that excludes land and professional fees. Richard Digard suggested in the fairly recent past that to be ‘affordable’ a house should cost under £300,000. Current indications are that the rock bottom minimum cost to build a very small two-bedroom house is going to be in excess of £600,000.

There are good reasons why property prices and rents are high and they start with Guernsey’s building costs.

The other problem with too many of the properties being built now is the poor quality. This is not a new issue; it has been with us for at least 25 years. We are building a future generation of slums.

Looking at the predictions of population growth if the island is to grow its tax take whilst maintaining its international competitiveness we are going to be have to be preparing for perhaps an additional 5,000 homes, homes of better quality and larger to appeal to managerial professionals.

We do not have the land or infrastructure for that.

We need some bold vision to see how that might be dealt with. Two ideas whose time may be coming and both of which are horrifyingly expensive are either to shift the airport to the sea off L’Ancresse or develop Belle Greve Bay. I believe figures of around £600m. for the land value of the airport were quoted a few years ago and a similar number to build an airport off the coast at L’Ancresse. Freeing up the existing airport land would provide a major opportunity to create a second commercial centre for the island, taking pressure off the roads leading to and in St Peter Port whilst also making extensive land available for mixed housing development as well as other amenities.

Clearly the States does not have the funds for such projects but it could act as a facilitator if the political will was there. We cannot just continue to fill in whatever small green space can be conjured up and not provide any additional infrastructure. There really does have to be some original ‘blue sky’ thinking about development to meet the island’s overall needs and not just keep banging the ‘affordable housing’ drum as the excuse to concrete over already crowded areas.