Assembly rejects former minister’s housing proposals

CALLS to declare a housing-affordability crisis and ban above-inflation-level rent increases have been rejected by the States.

Picture: JON GUEGAN. (31020830)
Picture: JON GUEGAN. (31020830)

Senator Sam Mézec – a former Housing Minister – told Members that the Island was in the midst of a ‘housing crisis’ as he laid out his proposals which would have included rent stabilisation legislation and the introduction of a rent commission to monitor and assess proposed increases to stop ‘rents rising in a way that cannot be justified’.

The Senator’s plans also called for social-housing rents to be charged at up to 80% of the market rate, rather than up to 90%. Senator Mézec asked Members to amend the annual financial return of Andium Homes – the Island’s social-housing administrator – in the 2022-25 Government Plan to prevent changes in rental policy having a negative impact on the organisation’s housing-development programme. The debate had been scheduled for May but was delayed to allow discussions to take place between Senator Mézec and Housing Minister Russell Labey.

Deputy Labey set out his own action plan at the end of last week which aims to tackle soaring property prices and a dearth of homes by providing better protection for renters, bans on foreign buy-to-let investors and £10 million worth of support for first-time buyers and 1,000 new affordable homes by 2025, among other initiatives.

Deputy Labey said his plans provided the ‘right mechanisms to support tenants and homeowners’, and that he had set himself and government officers ‘challenging timescales’.

‘I have wasted no time in determining a positive way forward,’ he said, adding that Senator Mézec’s proposition did ‘nothing’ about the supply of homes. He said that since being elected he had always supported reducing social-housing rates to 80%.

Chief Minister John Le Fondré said Deputy Labey had ‘picked up a very difficult chalice’ and acted on it.

Reform Jersey member Deputy Rob Ward said that Senator Mézec’s proposition did not get in the way of what the Housing Minister wanted to do. But Social Security Minister Judy Martin said it would tie the minister’s hands, while Environment Minister John Young queried ‘unintended consequences’, saying: ‘Is any action the right action?’

Treasury Minister Susie Pinel said the proposal did not account for the shortfall in return for Andium Homes, which she said would be £2 million a year by 2025, but Senator Mézec argued that that did not account for savings in income-support payments.

Deputy Louise Doublet highlighted the States commitment to put children first and said ‘surely security is the very least we can provide’, regarding security for tenants.

Around 40% of those present in the Assembly for the debate declared an interest as private landlords, or as relations of people who were landlords.

During a series of votes, Members rejected all of Senator Mézec’s proposals.

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