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States funds purchase of Kenilworth Vinery to kick-start significant affordable housing development

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Thursday 14 October 2021

The States has agreed to fund the purchase of Kenilworth Vinery in the Vale so that the Guernsey Housing Association can develop a significant number of affordable housing units.

The purchase, at a cost of about £6.5m, was approved by the Policy & Resources Committee following a recommendation by the Housing Action Group, a cross-committee group that is responsible for researching options to provide quick and innovative solutions towards meeting the current increase in demand and shortage of supply for suitable and affordable accommodation.

Kenilworth Vinery, which is off Saltpans Road, is designated a housing priority area under the Island Development Plan, and the site already has an approved development framework, which is a pre-requisite to planning approval for a development of this size. The site could yield up to 135 units depending on the layout and types of unit constructed. With more than 500 households on waiting lists for affordable housing, it is considered essential for the States to take urgent action to begin the process of increasing suitable housing stock (social rental, partial ownership and keyworker accommodation).

The Housing Action Group is considering other sites also, including sites already owned by the States, but there are no sites currently owned by the States that are as ready as Kenilworth Vinery to accommodate a large development at relative speed. The group is not yet in a position to discuss other specific sites under consideration, but will do so as soon as appropriate as this work progresses.

No detailed plans are available for the site as yet, but it will be a mixed development offering partial ownership properties, social rental housing and key worker housing. Given the island's demographics and projected needs, much of the site is likely to be developed into smaller one or two-bedroom accommodation. It is also hoped that the land to the western end of the site, which is designated as a protected open space, can be developed into some form of public amenity.

Deputy Peter Roffey, Chair of the Housing Action Group and President of the Committee for Employment & Social Security, said:

'The purchase of Kenilworth Vinery offers an immediate opportunity to get development of much-needed housing stock progressing quickly. It has been earmarked for housing for many years and is well-positioned for this kind of development. We know that housing is a significant issue for the whole island and this development can help, but we also know that people naturally don't want further development close to them. We also know there is a general narrative of developments focused in the north of the island. While the facts don't bare this narrative out in terms of actual properties developed in recent years, it is factual that the main centres identified for development are in St Peter Port, the Vale and St Sampson's. We are mindful of needing to balance the needs of the whole island for more affordable housing, with those of localised communities understandably wary of development on their doorstep.'

Deputy Peter Ferbrache, President of the Policy & Resources Committee, said:

'Taking action that can help address some of the significant issues currently being experienced in the housing market is not something a single States Committee can achieve in isolation. It will take a collaborative approach and that's what we're seeking to do with the membership of the Housing Action Group, each with delegated authority from their respective Committee. HAG is intended to be a short-term working party that recognises the significant challenges that currently exist in many sectors of the housing market, whether that be in affordable housing, private rental and property purchase, and seeks to put in motion measures to readdress the current imbalance. Our initial work has had a particular focus on identifying potential sites where more affordable housing can be developed. By addressing pressures on affordable housing - the island currently has a waiting list of about 500 - it is anticipated that this may also reduce pressure on the private rental market, which we know currently has far more demand than supply.'

The Housing Action Group will define what can be delivered in the short term (12 months), what can be set in motion for the medium term and will also examine the potential to reduce timescales for current planning and development requirements. Membership includes the Presidents of Policy & Resources, Employment & Social Security, Environment & Infrastructure and the Development & Planning Authority.

A particular focus in the early stages of its work has been on identifying both privately and publicly-owned sites that could be suitable for development. Further information about the work of the Housing Action Group can be found at gov.gg/housingactiongroup

 

*Affordable housing is property reserved for people who cannot afford to rent or buy on the private market and includes social housing and intermediate housing.

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