The Government has been criticised for failing to address the housing crisis with the latest report from the Minister slammed for repeating work that has already been done.
Deputy Russell Labey published his 'Creating Better Homes' report, which was described as a ‘housing action plan’, on Friday.
It comes just a few weeks after the publication of the Housing Policy Development Board report which made 12 recommendations on how to address the housing crisis. This included suggestions as the use of compulsory purchase powers to create new sites for development, the conversion of large homes into multiple units, an ‘Affordable Housing Contribution’ for new developments, better security for tenants rights and rent stabilisation as well as a revised social rent policy.
Pictured: The Housing Minister said work was underway for policies and incentives aiming to encourage 'right-sizing'.
The board also recommended a Government-funded “personal support and advice service for ‘right-sizers’ which is mentioned in the Minister’s report as discussions already appear to be underway on the matter.
But both the former Housing Minister, Senator Sam Mézec, and Stuart Langhorn from the Jersey Tenants' Forum have voiced their disappointment at the lack of “tangible action” being taken to address the housing crisis.
“It’s a major disappointment, they are not coming forward with any proposals,” Mr Langhorn said.
“The Minister has been talking about the overheating of the market for months now, but he has not taken any action. It’s all very well talking about it but there needs to be action. Whilst talk is easy, bringing forward legislation needs to happen now.
“The Minister has just come forward with a plan that says we are going to have a conversation about it. They already have the answers about what to do, but the answers were particularly uncomfortable because they do not suit a particular sector.”
Pictured: “The Minister has been talking about the overheating of the market for months now, but he has not taken any action," Mr Langhorn said.
Mr Langhorn explained that one of the major concerns for tenants in the island is the increase of rental prices and that a rent tribunal, which already exists in other jurisdictions to look into “unreasonable” rent rises, would be a “quick win” in the island.
“People are already facing 20% rent increases now, what’s happening is that people are being priced out of the island,” he said. “The Government does not have a plan to deal with that. It does not look at the bigger picture, they do not have a long-term plan and they are not prepared to take any action now.
“They need to make a decision about what the island is going to look like in 10 years? You will have a lot of very wealthy people who own a lot of homes, but most people will not be able to buy, and I am talking about anyone with an income below £75,000, that’s the direction the island is going in.
“They either have to pay people more and therefore need to tax more, or they need to build accommodation and pay people to be in it. At the moment there’s nothing. Rich people can buy houses and rent them to poor people at whatever cost they want, this is not sustainable now and this isn’t going to be sustainable in 10 years.”
He also voiced his dismay at the fact that proposals for a landlord licensing scheme, which were due to be debated on 8 June, were delayed to 20 July, saying there is no reason for them to be delayed when their goal is to ensure the safety of the tenants.
Pictured: Mr Langhorn says the Government is not prepared any action in the housing crisis now.
A Government spokesperson confirmed that the debate on the proposals had been deferred so that the Environment Minister, Deputy John Young, could consider the comments from the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel, which were released on 2 June.
With the Government already aware of the solutions to the crisis, Mr Langhorn believes the lack of action is linked to the impending election with politicians preferring to “kick it into touch for another four years."
“Meanwhile people are leaving, and we have a big problem,” he said. “Every report comes back and says you have to deal with it. Clearly the Policy Development Board came out with solutions but maybe they were not comfortable. Something radical needs to be done because at the moment the system works for the minority, not the majority.
“You need to take tough decisions that is why you are elected, setting up a talking shop is not making a political decision, it’s not taking tough decisions.”
Senator Mézec said the Minister’s report was “particularly disappointing” given the HPDB had proposed “very clear and tangible actions”. He said the majority of the actions recommended consisted of proposals for “more talking, research and engaging consultants, rather than clear commitments to change laws or affect tangible policy changes”.
“Here we are eight months later, and they have still not confirmed whether they accept the recommendations,” he said.
“It was two years, hundreds of thousands of pounds and the Government want to waste more money doing the same work again, which is just a complete waste of time.”
He also noted how the Housing Minister’s report proposed to build 1,000 affordable homes by 2025, 500 less than what is set out in the Bridging Island Plan. “They are not paying attention,” he said.
Pictured: "They would be as cowardly after the election," Senator Mézec said.
“In Government, there are people who actually do not want to undertake any decision at all,” he added. “They know how big an issue housing is but they are simply unwilling to take action because it just goes against their belief to make interventions into a market.
"They believe that if you build more homes, it will magically fix the problem. They simply do not have the skills to understand how things work and they were so confused by the report that they would rather leave it on a shelf.”
Earlier this year, the former Housing Minister released proposals to declare an official ‘housing crisis’ in Jersey and force 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 HPDB.
Pictured: The Minister's report came just days before the debate on Senator Mézec's proposals.
He believes that the timing of Deputy Labey’s publication, which came just days ahead of the debate schedule for tomorrow (8 June), was deliberate to “take wind out of his sails” and “kick the issue in the long grass again”.
“I was made to delay my proposal to give more time to the Minister to consider it,” he explained. “It feels like I have been stabbed in the back and misled into doing that when the Minister was working against me and not with me.
“He was doing it to destroy my chances with my proposal and confuse the matter further. I think my job is much harder now that a spanner has been thrown in the works.
“My job is much more difficult because this gives the Government a get-out clause and the opportunity to hide away and pretend they are doing something whilst not doing anything.”
For Senator Mézec, the only way out of the housing crisis is for islanders to come out and vote for people who “commit to real changes” in next year’s election.
“Take out those who do not have the courage of their convictions, who bend over whenever an investor is talking, and are clearly on the wrong side,” he said. “The only way you get action is by electing people who have a clear plan.
“I hope people will realise they are being ripped off by a Government that is outsourcing all their decisions and will instead elect people who have a clear housing plan in their manifesto.”
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