Viewpoint by Peter Karran

No. 8 Open Letter to Chief Minister, Alf Cannan, MHK

Dear Alf,

Congratulations on taking the initiative to take over responsibility for housing, as part of the Department of Infrastructure. There is no excuse now for the usual lack of progress in dealing with this most important issue, which is a major factor in the economic well-being of the island long-term, and has been allowed to become a social cancer. There won’t be an excuse that there isn’t the political will, and power at the top, to do anything about the housing crisis that many Manx residents face, because of the agendas of the vested interest of a few against the many.

Both your administration and previous administrations, have presided over a let it rip housing policy that has meant that its just an investment opportunity for the rich and powerful to abuse the poor and weak in our society. We have seen in the Channel Islands and now in some parts of the United Kingdom where there are special requirements on some housing,  as far as the use and ownership is concerned. To be fair to your administration, this is not a new phenomena. I would suggest you look back through Hansard. Ideas have come forward in the past that have been stopped by the block vote.

You could start by looking at putting planning restrictions on new housing, so that a percentage has a restriction on so that they can only be bought by an Isle of Man worker, can’t be owned if you own a second residential property on the island and can’t be rented out. This means that these houses go for nests, not nest eggs to the investment market to exploit the vulnerable.

I would hope that you will also look at the reintroduction of a government mortgage scheme. I can remember well the arguments that we had to keep the old government mortgage scheme down from the commercial rate of 15 1/2%. There are many grandparents today that wouldn’t have been in their own home if we hadn’t taken the initiative to keep the pressure on Dr Moore, the chairman of the Finance Committee of the day. Average property prices in those days was £18,000 or thereabouts. It is now around £200,000 and half a percent on that will be like Armageddon for many households, if we are not to repeat the foreclosures that we saw in the 70s and 80s.  So action needs to be taken now. A national bank using the Post Office to facilitate it may be the way forward. If we are not to repeat history.

We should celebrate the fact that past administrations had the foresight not to allow council houses to be sold off. However, there are certain local authorities that are completely incompetent, allowing for such a large amount of empty property in their areas. When we have a housing crisis on there hands central government should be looking at why that’s the case.

Finally a plea for those that are homeless. The need for a night shelter on this island is desperate. Using the police force as some sort of social services out reach is not sustainable and is very expensive and not an effective way of using taxpayers money. I hope that you take on board some of these ideas and that you are willing to help us avoid a major economic catastrophe. The Island will be on the brink, if we’re not careful and don’t address our housing crisis, and the other toxic elements that you need to deal with if we’re not to destroy the economic base of this island. 

Yours sincerely

Peter Karran, Chair, Southern Branch, Liberal Vannin

Former MHK for Middle and Onchan