St Helena Online

St Helena Online

The St Helena report and the gap in media

Government promises action on worsening housing shortage
Some homes on St Helena have seen better days

The housing shortage on St Helena is now so severe that the island’s government is looking for land for more than 4,000 homes – on an island that currently has only 4,000 people living on it.

(But I’m double-checking these figures – Simon)

It also promises to ‘bring up to 100 empty homes back in to use as well as 50 further empty houses which are currently not ‘livable in’. It does not give further details of these houses, or say how many are owned by the government itself.

The St Helena Independent says the problem is intensifying now that construction workers for the airport have arrived on the island. Rents for housing in good condition are rising beyond the reach of many islanders, it says.

The island’s Sustainable Development Plan says providing good housing is crucial if expat Saints are to be tempted back to the island to help transform its economic fortunes.

St Helena National Trust restored Longwood Farmhouse as a home

St Helena Government uses the newspaper to set out its plans for solving the problem.

Although it says it will be ‘making land available for over 4000 new homes’ in its new planning blueprint for the island, this does not necessarily mean it will provide the  land itself.

In the UK, the same system simply means identifying sites where housing would be allowed – regardless of who owns it, or even whether it is for sale.

Other proposals include:

  • Setting aside land for up to 180 first-time building plots
  • Making developers of large-scale building schemes pay money towards low-cost housing – as happens in the UK
  • Encouraging ‘better value’ methods of building homes

The government says it will also consider setting up a housing association to build ‘social housing’ and then manage it. Again, this is how most parts of England now make sure people on lower incomes have somewhere to live.

Finding space for so many homes will be challenging, given the island’s very steep terrain and the need to protect the landscape. A UK government report recently warned that over-development can harm tourism – the key to giving St Helena a viable economy.

The paper also has reports about the closure of the tuna-canning factory in Rupert’s Valley, the need to find a new site to dump waste on St Helena, and a fast-growing list of entrants for the Governor’s Cup yacht race.

Read extensive coverage in the St Helena Independent (10 February 2012) here.

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