Current hospital could be used for housing

HEALTH Department buildings – including the current hospital – could be freed up for housing now that there is ‘more certainty’ around the Overdale project, a minister and senior civil servant have said.

General Hospital. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (31853825)
General Hospital. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (31853825)

Andy Scate, director general of the Infrastructure, Housing and Environment Department, said that with funding mechanisms now in place for the new-hospital project, Maison Le Pape at the Parade, Westaway Court and the current hospital were among several buildings which could be redeveloped to supplement the Island’s housing stock.

His comments come at a time of high demand within the Island’s housing market, with the average property costing £100,000 more than it did 12 months ago.

Last week, the States Assembly approved the government’s funding proposals for the Overdale project, which included setting a budget of £804.5m, the majority of which will be borrowed.

Asked what could happen to the Gloucester Street site, Mr Scate said that housing was ‘a possibility’.

He added: ‘It’s too early to say, but [it] could probably accommodate around six storeys of apartments.’

Housing Minister Russell Labey said: ‘It is absolutely my mission to accelerate supply wherever possible, including identifying and securing more government sites for housing development.

Russell Labey. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (31853865)

‘With more certainty on the hospital, the greater the chance I now have of achieving this. While supply is key, we must also look at all suitable measures government is able to take to assist, ranging from individual assistance to the wider initiatives to help bring forward construction, including access to housing.’

During a Scrutiny hearing this week, Mr Scate said: ‘There are a number of sites which are effectively not being used now for their primary use, Westaway Court being one of them. That is still technically in the Health estate.

‘As the [Housing] Minister has rightly highlighted, there are a number of sites which effectively get freed up.’

Businessman Kevin Keen has called for the government to ‘get a move on’ with addressing the Island’s rising house prices, arguing that the hospital vote and Covid-19 had both been ‘massive distractions’ for the Council of Ministers.

He said: ‘Now that the [hospital] decision has been made, it is really time for them to come together and find a solution [for the housing crisis]. They have got to get a move on. A young family needing a three-bedroom house requires £800,000. Average earnings for two working adults are about £85,000, so if they can borrow five times their salary they can only raise £425,000. That’s a very big gap.’

He added: ‘With all due respect to the Council of Ministers, I don’t think they share the pain of young people in need of a home, and should act collectively with urgency, empathy and boldness. I don’t think this is something that the Housing Minister can deal with on his own.’

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