Members reject proposal for 50% of sites’ homes to be ‘affordable’

A MOVE to allocate 50% of new properties in two major developments as affordable housing was rejected by States Members yesterday.

The site of the proposed South Hill development Picture: ROB CURRIE. (32128152)
The site of the proposed South Hill development Picture: ROB CURRIE. (32128152)

Senator Sam Mézec wanted at least half of the homes in the proposed South Hill and Waterfront developments to be designated ‘affordable’, but his proposition also gave States Members the option to set the level at 30%, up from a previous allocation of 15%.

States Members were due to return today to vote on the 30% proposal.

The Jersey Development Company plans for South Hill include 153 new homes on the site of the former Planning Offices, while the Waterfront includes the delivery of 1,000 homes, alongside a revamp of the area.

Senator Mézec said he had lodged the proposal to ‘require the government to do better’, calling it a ‘paltry proposal to deliver a measly 15% of homes as affordable’.

A government comments paper was subsequently published, claiming that Senator Mézec’s proposition was ‘not financially viable, at least not in the near future, and will simply mean the scheme will not be progressed or significantly delayed’.

Yesterday, Senator Mézec also read out anonymous testimony from Islanders – many of whom he said were young, key workers who had left or were thinking of leaving the Island – saying ‘those people know that there is a housing crisis’.

Affordable housing is defined on the government website as ‘residential accommodation for renting or for purchase by persons who would otherwise have financial difficulties renting or acquiring residential accommodation in the general market’.

But Constable Mike Jackson said the problem was that affordable housing was defined by the Island Plan and that, since the last plan in 2010, the market had ‘run away’.

Senator Mézec said it was ‘very difficult’ to define affordable but that, for the purpose of his proposition, this related to ‘homes which are allocated to people who are on the affordable housing gateway’.

Constable Andy Jehan said: ‘We are seeing local people leave the Island, local people with long-established roots in Jersey leaving on a weekly basis.’

Mr Jehan said that they ‘surely do not have a better opportunity to provide what the Island needs’ than government-owned land developed by a government-owned company.

‘Value is not just about pound signs. Value is about people,’ he said.

Deputy John Young added that he believed ‘we have failed our young people’.

Responding on behalf of the government, Treasury Minister Susie Pinel – who last week claimed the Island faced a housing ‘challenge’ but not a crisis – said Senator Mézec’s proposition would cause an ‘unacceptable risk’ to the developments.

And Housing Minister Russell Labey said he would not support the proposal, adding: ‘I think it puts the plans in jeopardy.’

Deputy Labey said that, of the JDC residential projects built to date, 35% had been sold to first-time buyers and he fully expected a ‘similar percentage’ for future developments, in addition to the 15% affordable-housing level proposed by ministers.

He said there were also more ‘commercial choices’ available regarding mortgages for Islanders than previously, although he added that he was ‘not saying people should leverage themselves with debt’.

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