Speaking at yesterday’s Chamber of Commerce lunch, Deputy Susie Pinel said that there were ‘challenges’ in housing and recruitment but not crises, despite Island businesses reporting widespread staffing problems due to Covid and Brexit, and spiralling housing costs. The latest housing index shows that the average cost of a property has reached £629,000, £100,000 more than the year before.
When questioned by Chamber chief executive Murray Norton on how she planned to tackle the problems facing the Island, she responded: ‘Having travelled quite a bit, you can see in places like Africa and India a crisis and poverty. We do not have that here. We might have a challenge.’
Her comments come after Deputy Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham recently said the housing shortage in the Island was a ‘crisis’, adding that it would soon be time to declare the problem a ‘state of emergency’.
At a ministerial Q&A session last month, he said the cost of living was the ‘single biggest issue’ facing the government in the short to medium term, with the housing crisis ‘at the centre of this’.
Calls from Reform Jersey to declare a housing-affordability crisis were rejected by the States in June, with former Housing Minister Senator Sam Mézec’s proposals to ban above-inflation rent increases also rejected.
Assistant Treasury Minister Lindsay Ash supported Deputy Pinel, saying: ‘My view is the same. People seem to be using the word ‘’crisis’’ for everything. If England lose the World Cup, they would say that is a crisis. We have a big problem with housing in the Island, I have no doubt about that, but I do not think it is a crisis like in places like Calcutta, where they are people lying in the street. We have a problem but we are addressing it already by building a substantial number of houses over the next few years and by 2030 Andium will put even more housing in place.’
One business leader who attended the Chamber lunch, but who did not want to be named, said: ‘It is very sad that there seems to be such a disconnect between politicians and the reality of people’s lives in our Island. There are families in one-room apartments with sinks screwed to the wall in St Helier... but we are not as bad as Africa.’
At the event yesterday, Deputy Pinel also spoke of her reluctance to take out a £250 million ‘green’ loan to help fund the Island’s 2030 carbon neutrality target.
Deputy Pinel said the government was discussing the matter but she was opposed to it, adding: ‘When the carbon neutrality agreement was passed in the States for 2030, there was no attachment of what it would cost actually.
‘A figure of £250 million has been bandied around, but as for a green bond doing it – it’s being looked at, but personally I am very loathe to entertain more debt.
‘We will have the hospital debt of £756 million of borrowing. It’s about balance. Whether we go ahead and borrow anything at all for carbon neutral is still under discussion.’
At the beginning of this month, the head of Climate Assembly, Emelita Robbins, said that the Island should follow the Isle of Man and take out a ‘green’ loan to help fund its £250m transition to carbon neutrality by 2030.