The former Housing Minister is calling for politicians to declare an official ‘housing crisis’ in Jersey and force the Government to act on a report on how to solve it - a document he claims has been “gathering dust” since it was presented to the Chief Minister six months ago.
Senator Sam Mézec’s proposition asks the Government to make all tenancies open-ended, ban rent increases above the inflation rate, cut social housing rents to 80% of the market rate and set up a Rent Tribunal, based on the recommendations from the Housing Policy Development Board.
He explained he had originally planning to publish his proposals after the publication of the report, which was presented to the Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré on 16 October.
In a press release, Senator Mézec explained that he had agreed with the Chief Minister he would work on a policy development board “to bring forward a set of wide-ranging proposals to deal with many of the difficult housing issues that successive governments have failed to address” when he agreed to be nominated as Housing Minister.
He added that the report and recommendations had been finalised and presented to the Chief Minister shortly before he resigned as Housing Minister to support the Vote of No Confidence against Senator Le Fondré, in part because of his concerns that he had shown “a lack of commitment to dealing with the housing crisis islanders are facing”.
“The fact that the report has spent almost six months sat on a shelf gathering dust without being published shows that my concerns were well founded,” Senator Mézec said.
After asking “numerous times” when the report would be published, Senator Mézec was told it would be released by the end of March but when the deadline passed, he decided to make a move in the hope it will “spur on the publication of this important report”.
“I now believe it is in the public interest to force these issues onto the political agenda,” he said.
Pictured: Senator Mézec said the Chief Minister received the report from the Housing Policy Development Board on 16 October.
The proposition offers the States Assembly the opportunity to declare a ‘Housing Affordability Crisis’ in a similar way to how it declared a climate emergency in 2019, which Senator Mézec said will be “an important statement which will show the public how seriously this subject is being taken”.
It also includes five actions for the Government to take to address the issue from legislation to make ‘open-ended’ tenancies standard practice and stabilise rents, to the creation of a Rent Commission or Board to monitor and decide on annual rent increases.
Senator Mézec is also suggesting reducing social housing rents from 90% to 80% of the market rate, and amending the annual financial return provided by Andium Homes to the Treasury so that their housing development programme is not affected.
A timetable for the changes to be implemented, the proposition states, should be produced by the Council of Ministers by the end of July 2021.
Pictured: The graph included in Senator Mézec's proposition shows the cost of rent has been growing at a faster rate than average earnings for the last decade.
“Housing affordability (for both ownership and rental) has been getting steadily worse over recent years,” Senator Mézec wrote in the report accompanying his proposition. “This is inarguable, based on numerous studies that have been undertaken, including the House Price Index, which is produced quarterly, and regularly hits the headlines in the media upon its publication.
"This is not surprising as it is clearly an item of considerable public interest, because of the picture it paints of an Island that is becoming increasingly unaffordable to live in or to plan a future here.”
Senator Mézec said that before his resignation, and in anticipation of the Housing Policy Development Board’s recommendations coming forward, he had secured funding in the Government Plan for their implementation.
“Jersey’s housing market is broken,” he said. “It works too much in the interests of investors, rather than people who need a home. House prices are out of control, aspiring homeowners are constantly outbid by investors and our social housing rents system is putting people in rental stress.
“The Housing Policy Development Board’s recommendations provide a bold way forward which will revolutionise how our housing system meets the needs of ordinary people and realign it to focus on housing as a basic human right, rather than purely a money-making opportunity.
“I hope the government will publish the full Housing Policy Development Board report without further delay and commit to supporting my proposition to deliver on this important work.”
Senator Mézec indicated in his proposition that he will set a date for the debate once the report has been released by the Government to ensure States Members have had time to consider it.
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