Strategic Housing Target – debate 2015

In September 2015, the Housing Department submitted their policy letter setting out recommendations for the Strategic Housing Target from 2016. From the research I had undertaken looking at the local housing market it was obvious to me that the existing target made no sense and I could not accept the Department’s proposals to continue with a target of 300 new builds a year. This was all based on a housing needs survey undertaken in 2011, that did not reflect the current state of the market, nor specific need, as opposed to want. At the same time the Department proposed skipping the survey that was due in 2016.

Consequently, I worked with Deputy Domaille to put forward an amendment seeking an objective housing needs survey, as well as having the department produce priority based waiting lists. The amendment was passed ‘au voix’ with strong support across the Assembly. My speech, which focussed on the waiting lists, is below.


Sir, Deputy Domaille has clearly demonstrated why we need the survey. Now, the reason for directing the Housing Department to implement priority-based banding waiting lists is linked to the importance of identifying need as oppose to want.

The difference between housing need and housing demand is important. The Housing Department have muddled those households who face real housing and accommodation needs issues – such as a lack of facilities, overcrowding, insanitary conditions, who cannot access accommodation without financial assistance – with households who are not facing a housing issue and there is nothing inherently unsuitable about their current housing, but they want to move into a new accommodation, i.e. demand housing, while the household that can afford to move yet cannot find accommodation which meets it requirements.

Now, according to the Cambridge University Centre for Housing and Planning Research, which Deputy Domaille referenced in his speech, without a published A, B and C needs-based banded waiting list, one of the most robust and important tools for a public sector body, such as the States of Guernsey, to assess its needs is missing.

Without these waiting lists, the difference between urgent, high and low priority needs, as well as those with interests in housing, such as those on a partial ownership waiting list, it is impossible to benchmark where exactly Guernsey stands in terms of housing need. The information needs to be clear and robust and before large amounts of States and private resources are set aside to build inflated numbers of social houses that may not be needed or can be supplied by private house builders.

Guernsey has not got the basic tools in the box to measure robustly what its housing needs waiting list is made up of; instead, choosing to muddle States’ rental, GHA rental, partial-ownership demand and affordable under one heading of need. Why are we expected to accept no benchmarking, no published needs banded list and no proper definition of need versus demand and just say yet to a housing target for 300 that has no evidential basis.

Overstating need can lead to a housing target that is too high with valuable land resources allocated to the Housing Department away from developers, land owners and other States’ Departments. That is why we need to know ‘need’ and demand that it does not include ‘demand’ and I urge Members to support the entirety of this amendment.


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