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Communities ‘could bring down price of housing in the Island’

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Jersey house prices could fall if Island communities took responsibility for their own regeneration schemes, according to Xanthe Hamilton, the Jersey woman who was part of the 2015 Turner Prize-winning collective.

Xanthe Hamilton

A speaker at this year’s Jersey Architecture Day, Miss Hamilton said that housing projects could be given a powerful impetus by sidelining developers in favour of community groups.

‘The least interesting thing to the community is how much money they are going to make, which – for the developer – is normally the most important thing. When you take that out of the development-equation, you then have architects who want to maximise on the design not minimise on it because they are forced towards the bottom line,’ she said.

By making community groups the clients for their own developments, Miss Hamilton said that housing projects could take on a new and exciting impetus, with neighbours moving together into houses which they themselves had helped design and build at much lower cost.

Miss Hamilton’s vision is inspired by the Turner Prize-winning Granby Four Streets project, which saw derelict properties in Liverpool turned back into community homes by the very people who lived there.

When it won the Turner Prize, the project created controversy in the art world because it challenged the concept of art, offering up not a single painting or sculpture but a successful housing project as a ‘work of art’.

According to Miss Hamilton, Jersey provides the perfect environment for similar ground-breaking projects because the size of the Island should make community involvement much easier, but it requires a different approach to development.

‘In Jersey it’s all top-down when it comes to developing sites – it’s decided by a developer or the government and that means that when plans hit the ground they can polarise opinion,’ she said.

She points to community land trusts in the UK which were used as the vehicle to deliver projects in Granby and in the Lake District, securing land inexpensively or free because of the community’s central role in the developments.

‘It’s doable in Jersey but it has to become part of the culture – there has to be a desire for the Island to be progressive while respecting its traditions. There’s a story in everything and it’s about finding the right one’, she said.

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