Thursday 14 July 2022
The presidents of two States committees with responsibilities linked to housing have welcomed the Guernsey Community Foundation's (GCF) report on homelessness, which is particularly helpful in shining a light on this issue in Guernsey, which can often go unnoticed.
While homelessness may not be as obvious an issue in Guernsey as it is in other jurisdictions, it is known that there are people who do not have access to suitable long-term accommodation to meet their needs, including those who are 'sofa surfing' or being supported by third sector organisations such as Sarnia Housing.
The affordable housing development programme - the purchasing of sites for development into affordable housing - aims to reduce waiting list times for social housing, which may help to address some of these issues, but there will still always be a need for some temporary accommodation to be available at short notice for people who need somewhere to stay in an emergency situation.
The GCF's research presented in this report on homelessness will be useful in informing the scope and direction of the States' upcoming Emergency Housing Project. Although the final scope is not yet agreed, this project is expected to look at fully analysing the current position in Guernsey, including defining homelessness in the Guernsey context and an analysis of existing provisions to support people suffering from or at risk of homelessness. The project will aim to deliver outcomes that will address the issues identified, with clear recommendations and plans for how to achieve this.
As part of the project, the States will consider working closely with the third sector in meeting requirements for different forms of emergency housing in Guernsey and provisions that will address issues related to homelessness. This may include scoping the feasibility of the recommendation around the introduction of a specific charity focused on homelessness with government support.
A big part of the solution will be the timely delivery of the Affordable Housing Development Programme. In 2021, the States agreed to allocate £36.2m to fund the Affordable Housing Development Programme over an eight-year period. The units delivered through this Programme will work towards meeting the requirements of all current tenures of affordable housing, including social rental, partial ownership, key worker and specialised housing (which includes emergency housing). Being able to deliver more affordable housing units is critical to reducing current waiting lists, which will generate capacity to consider what other forms of affordable housing might be appropriate to help tackle the Guernsey's current housing issues.
Deputy Peter Roffey, President of the Committee for Employment & Social Security, said:
'I welcome this report as it will provide a useful evidence base for when we consider these issues as part of the Emergency Housing Project set out in the Government Work Plan. This is an important area alongside all other housing policymaking areas where work is currently underway. They all link together and this report provides a valuable source for us as we progress the various housing-related workstreams. I welcome the GCF's view that delivery of the Affordable Housing Development Programme should be a priority, and accelerated if possible. It is critical that the waiting list for social rental housing is reduced to help those who are financially excluded from any other housing sector, and who may therefore be homeless or unsuitably housed, to have somewhere to live that is safe and appropriate for their needs.'
Significant workstreams underway include the development of the Affordable Housing Indicator, which will form part of the States Strategic Housing Indicator proposals due to come to the States later this year and will help the States and wider community understand the level of affordable housing required to meet the island's needs.
Additionally, the Housing Action Group was set up in 2021 for 12 months to scope and set in motion measures to try and relieve supply pressures on the housing market. This included identifying, analysing and acquiring land at pace that could be developed for affordable housing and the consideration of 'quick-win' interventions in the private housing market. This focused work has led to the purchase of Kenilworth Vinery in November and more recently, the Guernsey Business Park. Together, these sites, along with phase 1 of Fontaine Vinery, could deliver approximately 400 units of affordable housing in the next two-to-four years.
Deputy Lindsay De Sausmarez, President of the Committee for the Environment & Infrastructure, said:
'I would like to thank the Community Foundation for its work on this important topic. In particular, I welcome the recommendations to define homelessness for Guernsey and improve data collection in this area, to help inform future support and provision of emergency and temporary housing options for those most at risk of being homeless. The GCF report makes some interesting and useful points for the States to explore, especially around market intervention options such as introducing schemes that have been successful in other jurisdictions, and on publishing more information on the progress being made.'