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The housing crisis: My manifesto

The housing crisis: My manifesto

Monday 06 June 2022

The housing crisis: My manifesto

Monday 06 June 2022

I have been asked by a number of politicians, both actual and aspiring, for a summary of policies that, in my view, would address the housing crisis.

If my enthusiasm results in presumption, I trust I may be forgiven. So, If I were standing, this would be my manifesto.

Key policies

1. Political focus

The Council of Ministers must prioritise housing, and end the present drift. 

Properly constitute the Housing Ministry into one essential Department in place of the present fragmented, directionless approach. Bring forward concrete objectives, policies and targets as a matter of urgency. 

The Housing Minister must take responsibility for implementation and delivery of targets. His/hers must be the loudest voice in the Council of Ministers. 

2. Properly address the need

Immediately open up the Affordable Housing Gateway to all who feel they need help to buy or rent suitable, affordable housing; yes, open to all. 

Also end discrimination and exploitation. Everyone in gainful employment in the island should enjoy the right to rent a home. This is self-evident and morally fair. This is also the only way, now, to solve the severe manpower shortage in the Island.

Importantly, make the Gateway better known. 

3. Support the social housing providers

Revitalise provision of housing by the social housing providers (Andium, Jersey Homes Trust and other Trusts) by fostering and supporting their activities, providing sites and subsidies where necessary. Utilise their expertise. 

Developments overall should be of mixed tenure - rental, first-time buyer and sheltered. Targets must be ambitious.

An accelerated programme will work to stabilise the housing market as well as delivering choice and hope.

4. Remove obstacles to development

Planning applications need to be encouraged. Housing schemes should be fast-tracked and welcomed. The present system is highly bureaucratic, ponderous, slow and very expensive. Planning officers see it as their role to reduce densities and to impose numerous conditions that increase costs and deter development. 

The culture is all wrong in a housing crisis and it has to change. 

5. Transform town

Draw up a detailed Town Master-Plan to boldly transform the built environment of the town, to provide the sites for thousands of new homes. Whole districts of decrepit “cottages”, including the back-streets along which they are strung, need to be removed to make way for beautiful, affordable housing schemes and all the amenities required. Target the costings and programme the phases. 

Then introduce measures to ensure implementation, this to include active intervention. Fund as necessary. The private sector will be keen to partner and fund viable development.

Scrap the present listing apparatus, which has run amok and is a harmful deterrent to sensible and necessary re-development.. Replace with a sensible, pragmatic and socially just solution.

6. First-time buyer assistance

Development of first-time buyer homes should be prioritised, with financial help to buyers, such as States’ loans, shared equity and the like. All developments on Government land should be for rental or first-time buyers. 

Give hope to young families.

7. Tenant support 

I would be supportive of capping annual residential rent increases at the rate of inflation, as a short-term measure. There should be provision for increases at higher rates (in recognition of property improvements) if the tenant is agreeable. 

There is also a good case for improved security of tenure. I would support sensible proposals, based on length of tenancy.

8. Banking regulations

There is a need for urgent discussion with mortgage providers to agree protocols for funding limits. Minimum deposit levels and realistic caps on multiples of incomes should be agreed. In my view, anything over 5 years’ joint incomes as the amount to be repaid is excessive, leads to price inflation, years of debt, uncertain interest exposure and general hardship. 

Avoid speculation and a housing bubble. Legislate if necessary.

Policies to avoid:

1, Over-regulation

Coercion of private landlords to register and submit their properties to annual inspection would seriously reduce the present availability of rental accommodation. Badly needed further provision would be deterred. 

The sector needs to be encouraged, not victimised. It is an essential part of overall provision. 

2. Re-establishing the Rent-control Tribunal

This would be a big mistake. We and the UK have been there before. Ultimately it is seriously prejudicial to tenants as a whole. Any short-term gain would have medium to long-term damaging consequences (see comments immediately above). Socialists hate landlords. They should learn to work with them. 

As this is election time, it might be interesting to put some of these suggestions to candidates. Feel free! I would like to see these policies endorsed in every manifesto.  I can dream.

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