The government has been advised to rezone green land and use its compulsory purchase to help solve Jersey's well-publicised housing issues.
Several recommendations have been made by a board set up in 2019 to develop proposals aimed at improving the supply, affordability, access to, and standard of housing in the island.
It followed the government's commitment to reduce income inequality and improve the standard of living.
A draft report was given to the Chief Minister six months ago. Since leaving office, former Housing Minister Senator Sam Mezec has regularly criticised Senator John Le Fondre for not publishing it sooner.
The recommendations include:
- Creating an estate strategy that explains how public land should be used for housing
- Borrowing if necessary to pay for more housing supply
- Use existing compulsory purchase powers to unlock new sites for development
- Mobilising a significant government-backed development programme after an appropriate feasibility study
- Rezoning land to deliver priority housing
- Encouraging the conversion of large residential homes into multiple properties
- Introduce an affordable housing contribution to mandate that a minimum proportion of new supply as affordable
- Reviewing, amending, or creating new legislation to secure tenants' rights
- Rent stabilisation legislation and a Rent Commission to decide on annual rent increases
- Changing the existing 90% social rent policy
It was agreed that Jersey's housing market 'is not fit for purpose and will not improve without bold and significant change from the status quo'.
Five key challenges were outlined, along with possible solutions to them. They are:
- Current barriers to development
- Housing Jersey's ageing population
- Jersey's two-tier housing market
- Housing's complex role within Jersey's wider economy
An overarching vision was agreed that Jersey's housing market provides choice through:
- Increased supply across a range of housing types
- More access to affordable homes in the ownership and rental sectors
- A high-quality market rental offer that people can access equally
- Options for people looking to downsize
"The ‘Discovery’ phase of the Board’s work concluded that “Jersey’s housing market is not fit for purpose and will not improve without bold action and significant change from the status quo”. As can be seen we envisage an enhanced role for the Government in shaping the housing market in Jersey together with the Housing Trusts and Government’s wholly owned delivery agents, Andium Homes and the Jersey Development Company.
"We have been very encouraged by the discussions we have held with Andium and the JDC throughout our work and are confident that, within the new strategic framework that we recommend, they will be able to deliver a significant new supply of housing. We recognise that some of our recommendations such as rezoning land for new housing may be controversial but hope that those islanders who are fortunate enough to be adequately housed will not adopt a ‘not in my backyard’ attitude and recognise the need for compromise so that others can aspire to the same standard of housing that they enjoy." - Michael de la Haye, Independent Chair of the Panel.
Senator Sam Mezec, the former Housing Minister, has called on the government to 'unequivocally' back the recommendations.
He has lodged a proposition which asks the States Assembly to declare a 'housing affordability crisis' and agree to take action to resolve it.
That includes cutting social housing rents would be cut from 90% of the market rate to 80% and making open-ended tenancies standard practice.
"Whilst serving as Housing Minister, I was able to pre-emptively secure funding and resources to implement the recommendations from this report when it was published. The Chief Minister has delayed the publication of this report for 6 months, and now has no excuses for not being ready to offer a full response right away. He should tell the public whether or not he supports the recommendations and what his plan is for their implementation."
He asked the Chief Minister in the States about whether he would outright reject any of the ideas put forward by the Housing Policy Development Board.
Senator John Le Fondre said some of them are 'eminently sensible' and others will be more challenging to implement.
He was also questioned on whether he supported the advice to reform social housing rents below 90%.
"On a personal basis, I actually brought the amendment that made the ability for all social housing providers to charge rent up to 90% rather than at 90%. So on that basis, as a general principle, I am obviously in favour of social housing providers having that flexibility to charge rents that are less than 90%.
"The only caveat which we're in the process of understanding is the balance between essentially subsiding people in social housing who are not on income support and therefore notionally could afford 90% of the market versus the wider impact on the overall market of rents being at a lower level.
"Subject to understanding that, my principle at this stage is that I support rents that are less than 90% subject to the directors or trustees of the social housing providers basically using their judgement in managing their social housing appropriately."