Ministers are urging States Members to reject plans to declare a 'housing affordability crisis', ban rent increases above the inflation rate, and cut social housing rents to 80% of the market rate - arguing that the latter would put too much "strain" on the covid-hit public purse.
The proposals, which have been put forward by former Housing Minister Senator Sam Mézec and are based on recommendations from the Housing Policy Development Board, are due to be debated in the States Assembly today.
Last night, two months after Senator Mézec's proposals were first published, the Council of Ministers released their comments urging members to reject the proposition in full to give the current Housing Minister, Deputy Russell Labey, the opportunity to carry out his 'housing action plan'...which itself was only released on Friday.
Among other things, it stressed the need to encourage islanders to move into 'right-size' homes in a bid to increase the availability of family homes among other proposals.
Although Deputy Labey described his proposals as a ‘housing action plan’, both Senator Mézec and the head of the Jersey Tenants' Forum, Stuart Langhorn, have criticised it for lacking “tangible action” to address the housing crisis.
Pictured: Senator Sam Mézec wants the Assembly to declare a housing affordability crisis.
Senator Mézec said the Minister’s report was “particularly disappointing” given the Housing Policy Development Board's report, which was published in April, had proposed “very clear and tangible actions”. He said the majority of Deputy Labey's actions suggestions involved “more talking, research and engaging consultants, rather than clear commitments to change laws or affect tangible policy changes."
He added that he believed the timing of Deputy Labey’s publication 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.”
Pictured: Ministers are urging States Members to reject Senator Mézec's proposals.
In their comments, the Council of Ministers said Senator Mézec's plans, which are limited to the rental sector, omitted “crucial factors”, such as supply, which they say must be addressed in order to “truly address affordability in the housing market”.
They added that “a declaration of a crisis” would do nothing to make Jersey’s housing market more affordable, arguing that improving “co-ordination across Government, arm’s-length bodies and private developers” and protecting the rights of tenants would help islanders purchasing or renting “good quality, affordable homes”.
They also suggested that reducing social housing rents to 80% would only benefit 850 households out of the 4,500 Andium Homes tenants, whilst costing over £2m by 2025 to the public, placing what they described as a “further strain on government finances at a time of potentially unprecedented levels of public borrowing”.
Reacting on social media to the news, Senator Mézec wrote: “I guess they just think everything is A-Okay for people in Jersey wanting a home they can afford. That's a revelation.”
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