Call for minister to be far more aggressive over housing needs

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THE Housing Minister needs to be ‘far more aggressive’ in his dealings with ministerial colleagues to address the Island’s housing problem, the retiring Jersey Homes Trust chairman has said.

In the Saturday Interview (in this weekend’s JEP), Michael Van Neste claimed that the government had failed to give proper priority to housing.

Some Islanders were leaving Jersey to make their lives elsewhere, he said, adding that this was ‘so wrong’.

Mr Van Neste made similar comments in his final annual report, issued earlier this week.

In today’s interview, published on pages ten and 11, he said that he was not criticising individuals within the government but rather the lack of support given within the structure of government to housing.

‘What you’ve got is a proliferation of bodies who have an involvement in housing – it includes Planning, Health and Social Security, the Strategic Housing Unit, the Housing Development Board, Scrutiny, another board which reported on the problems of the Affordable Housing Gateway, the Housing Minister has just set up a strategic housing partnership which is a forum for various stakeholders, the homelessness cluster – you’ve got an awful lot of talk but not a lot of walk.

‘I would like the minister to be assisted by someone with expertise in housing and for the minister to be far more aggressive with his dealings with his colleagues on the Council of Minister to pursue policies which will help the housing problem in the Island,’ Mr Van Neste said.

Describing the situation as ‘an ongoing crisis’, he nonetheless said that the widely publicised spat over how to describe the current situation was important only in so far as it drew attention to the need to act immediately.

‘The Treasury Minister calls it a challenge – well, it’s certainly a challenge.

‘Government simply must prioritise and realise what the historic mistakes were and do something about it.

‘They have to release sites, they have to encourage housing development ­– the planning process is not the easiest.

‘We’re having this huge hospital but a fraction of that money could do an awful lot for housing,’ he said.

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