States reject affordable housing commissioner bid
PROPOSALS to introduce a new commissioner with responsibility for ensuring enough affordable housing and greater controls on the supply of social housing have been rejected by the States.
Housing Minister Anne Pryke lodged proposals to introduce minimum standards for social housing and to establish a register of all social housing providers.
Former assistant chief minister Philip Ozouf proposed an amendment to the regulations with the aim of putting a greater emphasis on the supply of housing in the Island. This included establishing a commissioner for social housing, which was agreed by Deputy Pryke.
Under the proposals, the regulator would have had two main responsibilities – to protect the rights and interests of current and future social housing tenants and to safeguard public and private investment in social housing provision.
There are currently around 4,500 social homes in the Island.
Several Members argued that there was no need for regulation in this sector as Andium Homes and the other social housing trusts already have minimum standards.
The States recently passed changes to the Rented Dwellings Law which sets minimum standards for all rental properties – including social housing. It was suggested by a number of backbenchers that these proposals should be allowed to bed in before setting further regulations on social housing.
Deputy Pryke’s proposition was rejected by 29 votes to 15 with one abstention.
Deputy Pryke said: ‘Social housing providers provide additional services that we would not expect a private landlord to deliver. They are responsible for delivering housing to some of the most vulnerable in our society.
‘It is vital we have assurance that appropriate levels of assistance is provided to those vulnerable clients.’
She added that this was particularly important in the wake of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry report which found that historically Jersey’s poor housing standards had meant children were often taken into care.
Deputy Montfort Tadier argued that the proposals should be extended to all rental housing and that the ‘vast majority of complaints’ that he receives is from the private rental sector. However, his amendment to extend the minister’s proposition was rejected by 31 votes to 16.
Assistant Treasury Minister John Refault said that over-regulation in rented housing could have a negative impact and lead to landlords simply removing their property from the market.
Environment Minister Steve Luce said he was supporting the proposition but admitted he was ‘not fully convinced’ on the need for the regulations.