Friday, 23 March 2012

Guernsey's Time Bomb

Apparently the proportion of older people within the Guernsey population is growing and will continue to do so. Less wage earners means less tax. It’s a ticking time bomb.

Now why is this a surprise?

Talk to anyone under the age of 30 and ask them about property and rental prices. Then ask them about legal fees and other duties.

Put simply, a lot of our youngsters cannot afford to live on this island and so a lot of them are voting with their feet and moving away.

The older generations are already established on the property ladder and are quite happy to see the value of their homes increase so they’re not going to move.

Any incomers who are set to try and stay will of necessity be well off and older. No help there then.

We can all see where this will take us so why is anyone surprised by the trend in population changes?

What we need to do is find ways to help the youngsters stay here.

That means building smaller affordable properties and making the whole buying process easier and cheaper.

What’s to stop this happening?

Vested interests.

Builders and developers quite like the price margins on up market properties and I’ve yet to meet a lawyer who thinks their costs are too high.

While these people remain in positions of influence, and I suspect they might sit very nicely there, then we will not cure the problem.

What is needed are bold and innovative ideas.

How about releasing some of the land currently under rotting vineries for specific development and with restrictive terms?

1. A capital gains tax on the sale of the land at a rate of 50%. As an Island we are giving up a valuable asset so let’s all see some benefit rather than just enriching someone who has been sitting on the land playing the waiting game.

2. Planning permission will only be granted on starter homes and flats with a suitably low price range of say £100,000 max.

3. These local market owner occupied properties will have restrictions on resale so that their price will always remain within their initial sale range plus inflation. This can be achieved by a capital gains tax after allowing for inflation and monies spent on improvements, of say 90%.

4. A more radical move would be to also introduce a general capital gains tax on non-owner occupied property. Couple this with a higher tax rate on rental income and we might see property cease to be regarded as an investment commodity and return to being just buying somewhere to live. Then all property prices might return to sane levels.

I’m sure there would be howls of protest from lots of people who have done quite nicely out of property investments and would like to continue to do so. But their gains have become the Islands loss and it can’t be allowed to continue.

Will this or something similar ever happen?

Not a snowball’s chance in hell.

Money talks. 

In Guernsey it doesn’t shout; it just whispers into the right ears. We all know it happens and we’ve seen the results.

Now we just have to live with it.

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