States Members have agreed to bar non-locals from buying any of the 1,000 homes due to be built at the Waterfront.
The proposition put forward by Senator Sam Mézec was adopted this afternoon following an amendment from the Government pledging that the number of affordable homes will be “maximised” in the development.
He however said there was “no use fighting over the specific 50/50 when the optimum could be something else."
Pictured: Senator Sam Mézec's proposition was adopted with 40 votes 'pour'.
He said his proposition would mean the Assembly could ensure the States of Jersey Development Company's plans would “play a direct part in addressing the housing needs of the island rather than a less tangible indirect part by supposedly raising profits to channel elsewhere, which is a dubious strategy in my view."
“No properties should be sold to foreign investors who would take advantage of a government-backed scheme to profiteer, funnel money out of our economy and risk damaging our local housing market by contribution to rental inflation and I am pleased the Government has accepted this,” he added.
The former Housing Minister said the proposal’s strength was its economic literacy, as it seeks to provide a “targeted supply of housing to people who need it so that they are able to establish their lives around the stability that provides, to be happier and more productive and be able to spend more in the local economy because they’re not sending half of their hard-earned wages to a faceless investor somewhere else in the world."
Pictured: Senator Mézec said "no properties should be sold to foreign investors who would take advantage of a government-backed scheme to profiteer".
Senator Mézec said it didn’t make sense, at a time where interest rates are low, to try and profiteer then “cross-subsidise a scheme on land we have to buy elsewhere when this scheme will pay itself off anyway with the rent income over a planned period."
He added that simply building more homes was not the solution to the housing crisis.
“We need the right type of homes to go to the right people and we need a more targeted approach,” he argued.
He also welcomed the fact that the “nasty suggestion that a nice view is something that poorer people should never be entitled to” had been rejected.
Following queries from Deputies John Young and David Johnson, the Attorney General, Mark Temple, confirmed the Control of Housing and Work Law gave Ministers the powers “to impose conditions in advance on ownership."
He however said they hadn’t been tested before and that more work would be needed on how to use that authority.
Pictured: Deputy Lindsay Ash supported the proposition.
Few States Members spoke during the relatively short debate, including Deputy Lindsay Ash who said he had found common ground on many issues with Senator Mézec. “We both felt people should have houses,” he said.
He went on to say that, even if the Government decided to freeze immigration, the island would still be “very short” of housing.
He added that, whenever plans are put forward, islanders often contact States Members in opposition and “we end up with gridlock, the States get cold feet."
“If the housing problem is to be solved, it will need more things such as these that are brought by Senator Mézec, it will need this Assembly to show true leadership, the sort that can make you unpopular, that can make the Assembly unpopular, the sort of leadership we saw in the past when we flooded Queen’s Valley… 22,000 signatures against it.”
He urged the Assembly to support the proposition, saying that, if it was done properly, it could be “a truly mixed project” and even become an “iconic development for Jersey."
Pictured: St. Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft called for more "open space, community and leisure facilities" in town.
St. Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft said it was “inescapable” and made “perfect sense” for St. Helier to be asked to take on the majority of the housing needs of the island but asked for public amenities and parking in return.
“It is only right that St. Helier is asked to take on… I won’t say the burden because I think people are good for town, they add to the vibrancy and the life of the town, 24/7, but if St. Helier is taking on all these thousands of units but there must be that compensatory provision of open space, community and leisure facilities - all the things that these St. Helier residents are going to need to enjoy their new homes.”
St. Helier Deputy Mike Higgins also spoke in support of the proposition, but added that it “didn’t go far enough” in his view.
St. Peter Deputy Rowland Huelin said the Government should “maximise returns from cherished assets”, noting that the Waterfront land had the highest value in Jersey.
He suggested it was better to ensure “significant amount of the profits are used to carve out social and affordable housing elsewhere”.
Deputy Montfort Tadier asked, “What’s wrong with giving poor people, poor families sea views?”, adding that any “potential ghettoisation” would be very divisive and that the Waterfront should be “vibrant”.
???????????? pic.twitter.com/INjuhnGrJy— Senator Sam Mézec (@SamMezecJsy) February 10, 2021
Concluding the debate, Senator Mézec said that there was no legal definition of ‘foreign’ and that his proposition was about “applying whatever definition meets our aim”, which he said was “any off-island investor”.
He said that a population cap was nonsense and would help the housing market “magically find its equilibrium”. “We could go to net zero today and we would still have an increase in housing needs in the next 10 years,” he said.
He also said Constable Crowcroft and Deputy Huelin missed the point when suggesting the Government should make money on this site to build houses elsewhere, as building homes purely for investors could end up contributing to an increase in rent prices.
He also said the suggestion misunderstood how social and affordable housing is funded, adding that, while housing providers can find finances for such development, they were “begging for land”.
The proposition was adopted with 40 votes in favour and only one against.
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