‘Scarcity of stock’ in housing market

A HIGH volume of sales and a lack of new construction has left Jersey’s housing market with ‘a scarcity of stock’, a local property lawyer has said.

The scene in New Street earlier this year when some Islanders queued up from the early hours of the morning to get their hands on a property at the Bath Street Merchants Square development. Picture: Freedom Media. (30649497)
The scene in New Street earlier this year when some Islanders queued up from the early hours of the morning to get their hands on a property at the Bath Street Merchants Square development. Picture: Freedom Media. (30649497)

Philip Syvret, the head of Benest & Syvret’s property team, said that 2020 had been the busiest year he had seen during his time in the property sector.

However, he said the market ‘now has a problem’, because the level of demand, coupled with a lack of available properties, could leave many house hunters ‘frustrated’.

‘The sheer volume of sales has now resulted in a scarcity of stock,’ said Mr Syvret. ‘Since the pandemic restrictions, we’ve seen houses go under offer within days or, in some cases, hours.’

The government has today unveiled the draft bridging Island Plan which includes a provision for the construction of thousands of new homes.

Last month, some Islanders queued overnight in town in the hope of securing a property within Le Masurier’s Merchants Square development in Bath Street.

Mr Syvret added that if Jersey was going to avoid ‘spiralling house inflation’, supply was a key factor that needed to be addressed.

‘Growing families can’t live in small St Helier apartments,’ he said. ‘[The] government has to take some steps to change things, first in planning terms to allow construction and, second, by addressing the long-delayed immigration/housing rights debate.’

A 2019 report into projected housing needs in Jersey found that almost 7,000 homes would be needed by 2030.

Roger Trower, chief executive at Broadlands estate agents, said: ‘There is unprecedented demand at the moment and supply has to improve. The States themselves own a number of sites that should be redeveloped – they have the ability to change things but seem reluctant to do so.’

He added: ‘They have got to allow for new construction and allow for things to be built upwards. They need to build as many units as possible.’

Housing Minister Russell Labey said he had been ‘banging the drum’ for sites to be released for development so that the Island’s supply problems could be alleviated.

‘Planning is difficult in this Island and we need to start thinking ahead – supply is absolutely key,’ he said. ‘I am trying to get this government to release sites further into the future.’

He added that he was ‘determined to get some results’ and that there was ‘hope on the horizon’.

‘There was uncertainty about where the hospital and government offices are going,’ he said. ‘But now that we have some certainty, it will help the process of releasing sites to kick in again.’

Peter Seymour, the managing director of the Mortgage Shop, said: ‘There is a significant demand over supply in most sectors of the market up to £2 million plus.

‘The worst-affected part of the market is medium-priced property to suit the budgets of many first-timer buyers who, even with financial help from family, are still struggling to find a home.’

He said that possible solutions included converting redundant and under-used office space into residential units, and releasing derelict or under-used property in the government portfolio for development.

Simon Buckley, the managing director at property consultants Buckley & Co, said that there were a ‘wide number of issues’ to consider.

‘There are issues with site assembly and planning,’ he said. ‘The planning process could be streamlined – it’s the big sites that will provide lots of supply in a short space of time. There is also a shortage of contractors because the industry is so busy. In order to control pricing, we have to control costs.’

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