Chief Minister Howard Quayle was this week called on to give a clear answer on whether the island was facing a housing crisis.

The question came in Tynwald on Tuesday as concerns were raised over apparently conflicting figures being given out by government over the number of properties currently lying empty. There has also been criticism of projections of housing needs.

Although Mr Quayle did not state explicitly there was no housing crisis in the island, in response to a direct question in Tynwald from Rob Callister (Onchan), Mr Quayle did appear to disagree with the suggestion.

Mr Quayle said: ’The term “crisis” strikes in most people a sense of urgency and a desire to pin down what is meant.

’It could be argued that it is a strong expression of there not being enough affordable housing to go around.

’A simple answer could be to get on and build more homes.’

He added: ’Ahead of any declaration that there is any sort of crisis, we need to ask what is the situation now?’

Mr Quayle said the government was committed to do all it could to face the ’challenges of housing our population and to plan ahead’.

The current arguments over the proposed designation of areas for development contained in the eastern area plan illustrated how housing was an emotive issue.

’We are working to an outcome of having affordable and accessible housing, which meets our social and economic needs,’ said Mr Quayle.

’We will be judged on our achievements and whether in fact, on the matter of housing, we have met the needs of our community.’

Mr Quayle admitted there was some question over data on empty properties.

Of one estimate, of 5,818 empty properties, he said data was compiled differently than from the rest of the British Isles, where electricity consumption, or lack of it, was analysed to see whether a house was in the middle of a sale, or the property owner was away for another reason, other than the property being permanently empty.

Data

’That data is being worked on by the Manx Utilities Authority,’ said Mr Quayle.

’I think the data virtually shows you can take a nought off the end of the figure, but we look forward to that data in detail, coming from the MUA.’

Bill Shimmins (Middle) highlighted further discrepancies, within the Cabinet Office’s vacant properties report published in the summer.

He said that properties unlikely to have been occupied for a significant length of time, based on electricity consumption, came to 2,368, whereas the foreword talked of 664.

Policy and Reform Minister Chris Thomas apologised if his foreword ’might be construed as misleading’.

He added: ’The information is presented very clearly in its own terms in the body of the report.’

Source: IoMToday