Housing schemes should not be ‘cash cows for investors’

GOVERNMENT housing schemes should not be ‘cash cows’ for investors, a former housing minister has said.

The former Planning Department offices at South Hill are to be redeveloped
The former Planning Department offices at South Hill are to be redeveloped

Senator Sam Mézec made the comments after winning a recent vote in the Assembly that will ban buy-to-let investors from buying up properties at the proposed South Hill development and ‘maximise’ affordable housing at the site.

He said: ‘If you want more affordable housing, you have to back more affordable housing.’

Plans for 150 ‘sustainable’ homes on the site of the former Planning Department offices were unveiled earlier this year, submitted by the States of Jersey Development Company and architect firm FCBStudios. They include a redesign of the nearby children’s playground, a courtyard and a new public café. There will be 150 ‘low-energy’, ‘sustainable’ one-, two- and three-bedroom units.

At last week’s States sitting, Senator Mézec’s proposition won the support of Members, which will also require the Council of Ministers to aim to maximise homes designated for ‘affordable purchase’. The Senator said there were no affordable homes previously designated in the development.

Senator Mézec said: ‘I hope it is the start of a recognition that the government should not be involved in building cash cows for investors.’

The former minister has also lodged an amendment to the draft Bridging Island Plan that, if successful, would mean any States or States-owned companies’ land would only be brought forward for development of homes if they were ‘affordable’. The amendment also includes an exception for ‘where the provision of only affordable homes would render the development unviable’.

This would ‘ensure the best use of government-owned land to address housing need at the affordable level’, the amendment states. Senator Mézec said Jersey was set to fail in its bid to bridge the affordable housing gap, highlighting that there were around 3,000 applications on the Affordable Housing Gateway compared to five-year plans under the draft Bridging Island Plan to build 1,500 affordable homes.

The Senator recently lodged another amendment to the draft plan on future affordable housing provision, which calls for residential development to only be supported ‘where a proportion of affordable housing is provided’. The initial proportion would be at a rate of 12.5%, according to the proposal, rising incrementally to 20% after five years.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of Andium Homes has said an ‘affordable housing task-force’ should be set up to ensure swifter development of government and private sites. Ian Gallichan told a recent Scrutiny hearing that his organisation would like to see sites taken forward more quickly, and that development of taller buildings in St Helier could help.

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