Deputy: ‘Action plan is void of any action’

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AN action plan designed to bring empty properties back onto the market is ‘void of any action’, according to a former Housing Minister.

Deputy Sam Mézec said that the current Housing Minister – Deputy David Warr – had failed to produce a ‘proportionate response’ to the issue of unused homes in the Island.

Around 4,000 dwellings were recorded as empty on the day of the 2021 Census, but Deputy Warr’s Action on Vacant Properties plan states that the true number is estimated to be around 900.

The 35-page document was published on Wednesday and lists six main objectives, which are being implemented, as well as several other options – including an annual tax for empty homes – which are under consideration.

However, Deputy Mézec said that too many of the ‘action points’ appeared to be based around data collection, ‘which doesn’t put a single property back on the market’.

He cited the creation of an Empty Homes Service designed to provide advice to Islanders and to monitor the issue to inform government decisions.

Deputy Mézec said that this policy, as well as other plans, was ‘extremely vague’.

‘My initial response is that it’s an action plan on vacant dwellings that appears to be void of any action,’ he added.

Deputy Warr has said work to implement all six objectives has begun, with a progress review due to take place after six months.

Deputy Mézec said: ‘It’s a long time to do very little. They are trying too much carrot and not enough stick. It would not be difficult to use the parish rates system to impose additional charges on empty properties.

‘[The action plan] does not strike me as a proportionate response to what is a crisis.’

The report states that compulsory purchase action is also being considered ‘where all other available options have been exhausted’, and public interest in acquiring a property can be ‘proven’.

Additionally, ‘empty dwelling management orders’ could be introduced to enable the government to take control of a property for a period of time to bring it back into use.

Deputy Mézec said: ‘They should be much higher on the list. Wasn’t the purpose of the report to consider whether those options should be used?’

The JEP attempted to contact Deputy Warr for a response but did not receive one before going to print.

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