Renters twice as likely to be in bad health

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ISLANDERS living in rented accommodation are twice as likely to report being in poor health than those who own their own home – with a former Housing Minister saying this demonstrates the need for a licensing scheme.

Deputy Sam Mézec – who served as Housing Minister from 2018 to 2020 – said the situation outlined in a new Statistics Jersey report showed that there was something wrong with the rental sector, which he described as ‘a total mess’.

The new report, which forms part of the government’s Covid Recovery Insights Project, found that those in social rental accommodation were around three times more likely to report poor health than those in owner-occupied accommodation, while for qualified or non-qualified rental it was double.

A recent public-health report highlighted that Jersey was becoming less equal over time in terms of net income after housing costs, that inequalities ‘may be widening’ and that this was ‘likely to be having an impact on health and wellbeing’.

Overcrowding was highest for households living in non-qualified accommodation (14.6%), according to the 2021 census. This compares to 5% for qualified rental, while across all households it was 4%.

Ministers have pledged to take action to improve the worsening rental situation in the Island after several unsuccessful attempts were made by the previous administration, with Minister Jonathan Renouf set to bring forward proposals for a licensing scheme in April ahead of a States Assembly debate in June.

Deputy Sam Mézec

Deputy Mézec said that if the new scheme was adopted, he expected it to make a significant difference.

‘This would go a huge way to addressing the problem and will have my whole-hearted support,’ he said. ‘I regret that it has taken so long, and don’t believe we needed this data as we’ve known there was a problem for a long time, but if it helps get it over the line, then that would be good.’

The previous government’s failure to tackle the issue had been a significant part in its downfall, the Reform Jersey leader added, with several leading players, including Chief Minister John Le Fondré, voted out of the Assembly at last June’s general election.

Deputy Mézec said: ‘If the new government wants to differentiate themselves then this issue is one they need to get to grips with.’

Housing Minister David Warr said: ‘I have been working with the Environment Minister on legislation in this area – things need to change and we are very keen to get this over the line.’

The report also showed that:

  • For individuals above middle age, those with ‘Portuguese or Madeiran’ ethnicity were the most likely to report poor health compared to other ethnic backgrounds.

  • Those who took themselves to work – whether by car, bicycle, motorbike or on foot – were more likely to report poor health than those who were passengers in cars, buses or taxis, especially if they had manual jobs or worked in the service sector.

Figures from the 2021 census showed that around one in 20 Islanders reported having ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ health.

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