Former Onchan MHK and Lib Vannin leader Peter Karran has called for intervention in the housing market to benefit working people and families.
Speaking at a meeting for members of the party’s southern branch, Mr Karran said that politicians need to ‘get the control of power back in the people’s hands through political parties and not the section of the community that have always been able to use the public purse as their own personal piggy bank’.
He told members that the two areas that need to be addressed to help workers are planning and taxation, both of which feature in the government’s economic strategy.
Looking at the former, Mr Karran returned to a long-standing argument that he used when he was an MHK, the difference between ‘nests and nest eggs’.
He said: ‘This is a simple principle where we try to get to grips with one of the fundamental cornerstones of society, namely the home is a nest and not a nest egg for investment for the rich and powerful to exploit those that need this basic commodity of life.
‘It always comes down to vested interest and the vested interest of this government administration and previous ones.
‘We find it impossible to be able to do the simple concept of bringing in planning restrictions where certain houses can only be bought by Isle of Man workers, can’t be owned if you own a second residential property in the island and can’t be rented out.’
Mr Karran said that by altering planning restrictions, the government could help ‘not only first-time buyers, but others that simply request to be able to afford decent accommodation’.
As well as bringing restrictions on who can buy new houses, Mr Karran also wants to see changes to development rules, calling for a restriction of ‘eight houses per acre to allow the house to grow with the family unit instead of forcing people to have to move on’.
As well as planning reform, Mr Karran said he wants to see a government mortgage scheme be brought about to help islanders afford housing.
He said: ‘A mortgage scheme in conjunction with planning restrictions on housing could be a valuable tool for us trying to facilitate a lot of people who, through having to divorce or for young single people and many older people in local authority housing, don’t have savings for deposits.
‘I get very tired of listening to the usual diatribe about rich people in council houses when the reality is they’ve got a decent income but haven’t got the years to pay it off. Unless we do something like this they are unable to access the present housing market, unless they’ve got an MHK’s salary and can afford to purchase in this present market.’
As well as proposing changes to the way housing is built and rules around who can live in them, Mr Karran wants to see land speculators and rental investors taxed.
He said: ‘Why aren’t we making people holding options have to pay some form of taxation? Why aren’t we taxing zone land?
‘I know of land that has been zoned for the last 50 years. It will never be developed. It is used as a fig leaf by the vested interest to say this all this land that can be developed when it isn’t going to be.
‘When are we going to stop developers building houses and drip feeding them into the market, through taxation. Government needs to be working with developers to provide special housing for different sections of our community: key workers, those requiring support for mental health, addiction etcetera.’
He also called for tax incentives to increase insulation on rented accommodation.
Much of what Mr Karran is calling for are areas that the government has admitted need to be reformed.
In April, the housing and communities board, chaired by Infrastructure Minister Chris Thomas, said it wanted to improve the situation for first time buyers in the island, alongside funding a night shelter for the homeless.
As of August 2, first time buyers can earn more, property price limits for the First Home Choice Scheme were removed and improvements were made to the interest and repayment terms for the shared equity loan.
Meanwhile, as part of the draft Economic Strategy, the government has pledged to support a review of the island’s tax system, although it isn’t yet known what it intends to look at as part of this review.
Mr Karran was MHK for Onchan until his retirement in 2016 and the founder of the Lib Vannin party.
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