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"Almost everything wrong in this island is due to the shortage of housing"

Friday 11 February 2022

"Almost everything wrong in this island is due to the shortage of housing"

Friday 11 February 2022

Eliminating poverty in Jersey by 2006 was a States strategic objective...what happened?

With food and fuel prices rising, and inflation predicted to sharply increase further from its already high levels, the cost is living in Jersey is worrying many islanders.

Express's newest columnist, Michael Van Neste, who established and led the Jersey Homes Trust for more than 25 years, believes that the root cause of so many of the island's issues is the high cost of housing. Today, Express profiles his views on this critical issue on our news pages...

"In the brave early years of this millennium, as a strategic policy objective, the States set a goal for the elimination of poverty in the island by the year 2006.  

Inconveniently, statisticians pointed out that eliminating poverty is technically impossible since, by definition, the poverty designation is applied to those occupying the lowest income bands, respectively, in every jurisdiction. The test is driven by mathematics, not by a subjective scrutiny of quality of life. In every jurisdiction, there will always be some who are underprivileged by comparison with the rest. 

As we know, by the year 2006, little had changed and this commendable but inconvenient strategic objective of the States faded from memory. If anything, poverty had increased, however it was measured.


Pictured: "If anything, poverty had increased, however it was measured."

So much for strategic objectives. 

Quite simply, there are not enough homes in Jersey for the needs of its residents, resulting in a cascade of social problems.

Shortage of supply drives up prices. A main component of the cost-of-living index is the cost of housing, whether through purchase or rental. A chronic shortage of decent, affordable housing leads to excessive living costs, reduced living standards and most other social ills. Everybody is worse off, directly or indirectly. In the more severe cases it causes poverty. In this affluent community, with high levels of employment and excellent and affordable education and health facilities, there is a section of it living in poverty, as defined by any empathetic person. 

I won’t dwell on the day-to-day struggles of those living in such state. There are some in authority who would (and do) label this existential class as feckless and undeserving, whilst children lack nourishing food and shiver. Many Jersey residents have “taken the boat in the morning” away from the island they love, in search of hope and a better life, to be replaced by immigrants, relatively unskilled, poorly educated and willing to exchange the poverty of their homelands with the more favourable poverty that they find here.  

Just imagine a Jersey in which every family had the right to a suitable, available and affordable rented home, with no application criteria to fulfill, from any social or private sector provider freely chosen according to preference. Just imagine if every couple in employment could well afford to buy, if that were their choice, a home suitable for their needs.


Pictured: "Almost everything wrong in this island is due to the shortage of housing."

The cost-of-living and quality of life in the island would be transformed. Poverty would disappear, regardless of statistics. Rents would be fair and reasonable because landlords would compete for tenants. Tenants would enjoy well-maintained homes and improved security of tenure, provided they complied with rental agreements. Wage and salary levels would not need to compensate the working population from the effects of a housing crisis. Living costs in Jersey would come close to those in the UK. People would have more money to spend on services and luxuries. Businesses would thrive. Happiness levels would be off the scale.

That is how it could be. That is how it should be. Almost everything wrong in this island is due to the shortage of housing.

We got it wrong."

Michael Van Neste
Founder and former Chair of Jersey Homes Trust 

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