Rent control e-petition to be considered for debate
AN online petition calling for the States to consider setting limits on rents has broken the target of 5,000 signatures needed for it to be considered for a debate by the Assembly.
The target has been exceeded by more than 200 signatures and the petition will not close until Thursday.
Islander Jan McAlister issued the call for the States to look at the issue of rent control last summer.
‘A law to limit rental prices is required in Jersey, in my opinion,’ she said. ‘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.’
Islanders rallied behind the call over the weekend. The head of Citizen’s Advice in Jersey said housing continued to be the top concern of those approaching the service and last year there was a 20% jump in the number of people seeking housing-related help.
Chairman Malcolm Ferey said 1,867 people came to their office last year for advice on housing, compared to 1,553 in 2017.
More and more people were finding themselves in rental distress, as pay had stagnated against inflation, he said.
‘With the combined effects of Andium rents moving to 90% of market value and the fact that tenants no longer have their heating included in their rent, along with pay awards generally being below RPI, you can get a sense of the forces that put pressure on family budgets,’ Mr Ferey said. ‘This has been an increasing problem for quite a while and the outlook for those at the bottom of the socio-economic spectrum is not good.’
Those struggling to adequately house themselves or their families suffer both physically and mentally, he added.
‘This can manifest as depression, low self-esteem or just a general unease with life,’ Mr Ferey said. ‘Consequently, relationships with loved ones can, and do, suffer.’
Citizen’s Advice deals with families pushed to the breaking-point.
‘We have plenty of examples of families who are living in overcrowded situations and in sub-standard conditions,’ Mr Ferey said.
These standards were gradually improving, however, since the States introduced new rental standards which were overseen by the Environmental Health department, he added.
‘This is slowly improving this problem but some tenants are too frightened to make a complaint,’ Mr Ferey said.
No date has yet been set for a potential States debate on rent control. While countries such as Germany have had success with controls placed on the private rental market, other areas have rejected it, such as the US state of California, which dismissed it in a referendum last year.
The Island’s main social housing provider, Andium, has already said it needs to be ‘carefully considered’ and could compromise its work.
Now that the petition has passed 5,000 signatures, States Greffier Mark Egan said it would be included in the arrangement of public business section of a States sitting.
As chairman of the Privileges and Procedures Committee, Deputy Russell Labey will propose an ‘in committee’ debate on the subject of the e-petition, which means it will not be subject to a vote.
‘The Assembly will decide whether or not to debate it and, if so, when,’ Mr Egan said.
Although the States is sitting today the petition was not included on the order paper.