A petition calling to limit rental prices in Jersey has gained over 5,200 signatures within days of its deadline, meaning that politicians will now have to consider the issue for debate.
The e-petition was one of the first to be started in August 2018 when the new facility was launched on the States Assembly website, and is also the first to hit the 5,000 signatures threshold.
Jan McAllister's petition stated: "A law to limit rental prices is required in Jersey in my opinion. Rents are far too high. Rents should be around 30% of people's salaries. The present rents are causing rent distress in individuals and businesses to close," she argued.
1,000 islanders signed the petition within a week, prompting a reply from Housing Minister Senator Sam Mézec. He acknowledged Ms McAllister’s concerns, accepting that “the cost of housing is a challenge for many households in Jersey.”
His response continued: “73% of lower-income households living in qualified private rented accommodation could be considered in ‘rental stress’, with some families paying over half of their income in housing costs.”
Pictured: Senator Sam Mézec, the Housing Minister, responded to the petition in September by outlining several avenues for consideration to make housing in Jersey more affordable.
The Minister also agreed that rent caps were one option for addressing Jersey’s rocketing rents, but that its “limited success” in other jurisdictions meant that the Department were also looking at other options.
He suggested repurposing empty properties as homes as one of several avenues a dedicated Policy Development Board could look into to prevent ‘rental stress’ amongst islanders.
Bringing empty properties back into use as housing has long been on the Reform Jersey manifesto, as well as being part of Chief Minister John Le Fondré’s agreement with the party.
Pictured: The Housing Minister said that alongside rent caps, he would be considering bringing empty properties back into use as housing.
The Housing Minister said he was concerned that some of the empty residential properties could be empty due to wealthy investors “hoarding” them or buying them to rent out.
He described this behaviour as “a great way of funnelling money out of the economy and inflating the cost of housing”.
He added that he was determined to “get those empty properties back on the market” as well as working “to restrict foreign investors from buying properties when its having a negative impact on the people who are already in the island and looking for somewhere to live."
Pictured: Social housing providers pledged to freeze their prices last year.
Since the petition was launched, two social housing providers have pledged to freeze their prices. States-funded provider Andium Homes announced in August it would defer the annual rent uplift due in October, which would have caused a 5.25% increase, in line with the States' Rent Policy. They said they were “concerned” about the impact of increasing rents in line with government policy.
Jersey Homes Trust, which looks after nearly 800 properties, followed suit and announced the following week that it would not be putting tenants’ rents up amid high inflation levels and stagnant wages.
The potential debate comes just as the topic of housing struggles in the island was raised once again following the publication of a report suggesting 7,000 new homes will be needed by 2030 if current migration trends continue.
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