Despite backing a proposition supporting the concept six weeks ago, this week the States Assembly narrowly rejected, by 23 votes to 22, Environment Minister John Young’s proposed scheme to license rental properties.
Children’s commissioner Deborah McMillan said the decision was ‘a huge disappointment to the children who contributed’ to a recent report entitled Life on the Rock. The report featured testimony from 21 young people, of whom a quarter listed housing as one of the major issues facing the Island.
Meanwhile, Stuart Langhorn, from the Jersey Tenants Forum, said the Environment Minister had been ‘thrown under the bus’ by colleagues, after 14 States Members voted against the scheme, having previously declared interests as landlords.
Mr Langhorn said: ‘A system of government that allows members to vote in favour of their own interests is absolutely appalling. The people of Jersey deserve better.
‘The Chief Minister has had four years to come up with a solution to the problems experienced by tenants and has instead undermined his own minister [Deputy Young] and come up with no ideas.
‘This is clearly symptomatic of a failed political class. As more and more professional people find themselves in poorer accommodation because they cannot afford the high rents in Jersey, they will not put up with such vested interests.’
Criticism of ‘excessive red tape and bureaucracy’ was voiced by several Members, but Mr Langhorn said the proposition was a matter of protecting tenants from the minority of ‘rogue’ landlords.
‘It’s not red tape to require an inspection of the electrical system at a house before a tenant moves in and starts paying £2,000 in rent every month,’ he said.
Speaking after Tuesday’s vote, Deputy Young said the debate was ‘not the Assembly’s finest hour’.
He said: ‘To say I’m disappointed is a big understatement – I feel particularly sorry for members of the environmental health team, whose work is so important.’
Deputy Young said there had been several examples of misinformation used during the debate, including inaccurate claims that he had failed to engage with the Jersey Landlords Association and ‘distortion’ about the scheme potentially costing £1 million.
The Environment Minister said he would be reflecting on the situation before deciding whether there was any prospect of making a further attempt to bring in a licensing scheme.
Having brought the earlier proposition that was passed by 25 votes to 19 in June, Deputy Rob Ward said he was extremely disappointed by this week’s U-turn.
‘It’s a massively regressive step when Assembly Members can’t put the interests of the wider Island ahead of their own self-interests,’ he said.
The JEP asked the Jersey Landlords Association for a response to the scheme and was told that a statement was being prepared.
Before the vote, the association said the scheme would be ‘intrusive and time-consuming’ and would cause general inconvenience, only to identify the ‘few bad landlords’ in the Island.