Call to make all Jersey Development Company’s future St Helier housing affordable

Deputy Sam Mézec

JERSEY’S government-owned development company could be forced to provide only affordable homes when building residential units in St Helier if proposals from a former Housing Minister are given States backing.

Following a sustained rise in property prices, which has left many unable to buy their own home, Deputy Sam Mézec has called for tough restrictions on the Jersey Development Company’s future projects.

And he also wants the firm’s plans to build 130 flats on the site of the former Planning offices on South Hill to be blocked until a full Town Masterplan is approved.

Deputy Mézec’s proposals have been lodged as amendments to St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft’s proposition for another major JDC development on the Waterfront to be halted until an agreed vision for the parish is in place.

The JDC’s ten-year plans for the Waterfront were unveiled in 2021, and include a leisure centre, a new slipway, almost 1,000 new homes, a boardwalk pier, new public gardens and open spaces.

Politicians are this week due to decide whether to grant planning approval for the residential development at South Hill. The JDC wants to build 64 one-bedroom, 69 two-bedroom and six three-bedroom apartments on the site.

The Planning Committee rejected the JDC’s first application. However, the new plans have a lower profile and have been recommended for approval by planners.

Deputy Mézec said his amendment to Mr Crowcroft’s proposition would ‘specifically include’ the South Hill development, while also enforcing a greater designation of homes as affordable housing.

He said: ‘Many of the arguments made by the Constable of St Helier about the impact of the Waterfront development are equally valid for the South Hill development.

‘The development is proposed without adequate considerations in place for traffic, school places or the quality of life for those who end up in single-aspect apartments a few metres opposite from a cliff face. This is not satisfactory and must be reviewed.’

And the Reform Jersey Deputy has said that any Town Masterplan should include the requirement that ‘all subsequent homes built by the Jersey Development Company in St Helier be for affordable housing’.

He added: ‘Following previous States Assembly debates on this subject, the SoJDC are currently working based on guidance issued by the previous Jersey-Alliance-led government that the minimum requirement for affordable housing on both the Waterfront and South Hill is just 15% on each site.

‘There is no evidence of any public support for the use of a publicly owned developer to use publicly owned land to build such a large amount of unaffordable homes. Thus far in this political term no elected Member has spoken in enthusiastic support for this policy. There is no reason that it should be maintained by this Assembly. We have the democratic right to review it and overturn it.’

He added that new homes in the Island were often being ‘let out at rates which may well be acting as a benchmark to others’, increasing the inflation rate and which ‘simply serves to exacerbate the housing crisis’.

Deputy Mézec continued: ‘The government should not be in the business of building homes for the unaffordable sector. Leave that to the private sector. Our resources and energy should instead be solely focused on providing affordable homes.’

A further amendment from Deputy Alex Curtis seeks to ensure the provision of ‘commercial spaces’ in major developments can demonstrate a benefit to the economy.

In his proposal, he said: ‘This amendment seeks to ensure that Islanders’ views and aspirations are listened to when major developments of public land are proposed. Public land is taken to be land that is owned either directly by the States of Jersey, or through States-owned enterprises such as the Jersey Development Company.

‘It also seeks to ensure that developments which propose new “commercial spaces” such as retail or hospitality contribute positively to St Helier’s economy.’

The proposition and its amendments is due to be debated at next week’s States sitting.

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