Just a few weeks ago Senator Ozouf was calling for more help for private housing developers.
Now he has called for a “Housing Commissioner with responsibility for ensuring that enough affordable housing is available for Islanders to be established.”
This new interest in “affordable housing” is somewhat contrary to his farm development at St Saviour where the family Green Zone farm has been extended and altered to create 18 dwellings for sale. These include 1, 2, 3 and 4 bed flats and houses at prices from £295,000 to £715,000 and already 14 have been sold.
The 4 currently remaining for sale are 2 beds priced from £485,000 to £525,000 and the total sale price amounts to about £9 millions.
How come the Planners did not demand at least a % of “first time buyers” accommodation or units to let?
Of course, one wonders too why the Senator did not simply turn the whole development over to one of the several Housing Trusts if he feels so strongly about the shortage of “social housing” ….
But of course, the real causes of Jersey’s everlasting “affordable housing shortage” are the 13,000 working adults who do not have housing quals and the fact that they cannot rent or buy proper living accommodation.
Yet they pay very high rents for their often mediocre housing - but what happens to their £40 million plus annual rental payment?
There is no mention of them in Senator Ozouf’s scheme nor in any plans produced by the Environment Department under Deputy Luce or the so called “Housing Department” led by Deputy Pryke.
In fact, Jersey’s “housing” provision is already controlled and managed by a multitude of individuals and organization with very little co-ordination.
ANDIUM HOMES was created as an “Arms Length Management Organisation” (ALMO) - on the UK model - similar to that which has so visibly failed in Kensington & Chelsea with the loss of 71 lives in the Grenfell fire.
Andium was supposed originally to be the great provider of “social housing” and the regulator too but that plan has long been largely abandoned.
Now it operates much like any developer and aims to build new houses for sale and to charge full market rents in the fullness of time. And it has still not spent the entire £250 million loan that Senator Ozouf obtained for them – and wants more!
There are of course several other “Housing Trusts” whose properties to let are included in the “Gateway” scheme but they do not all operate under the same guidelines and the 12 Parish Constables also like to play at providers of housing accommodation too but have opted out of the “Gateway”scheme.
Lodging Houses too make a contribution to the provision of accommodation – mostly in the “non quals” - sector and are vaguely “regulated” by the Chief Minister’s Department.
Indirect regulation of minimal housing standards for rent is to be provided by an “Environment” unit and all private accommodation to let is supposed to be included - but the task of identifying and policing all the accommodation currently occupied seems to be an impossible one.
Not least is the problem that much of the accommodation does not comply with planning or safety requirements and is often let illegally. Shall it be condemned?
The “deposit protection” scheme is an example of a failed attempt at regulation where many units are now offered without a deposit being required by the “landlord.” The scheme proving inflexible and unpopular.
The operation of the Rent Control Tribunal has similarly been allowed to fall into mis-use by the ineffective Housing Department so the suggestion by Senator Ozouf that a “Commissioner” might be appointed to step in with the appropriate powers and staff to remedy the housing neglect of decades is laughable.
Unfortunately, it is the Social Security Department under Deputy Pinel that now sets “fair rents” though the indirect application of the Housing Component of Income Support and the payment of “rent rebates” to public and private landlords for tenants who have low incomes and more than 5 years residence.
How such “fair rents” are actually determined is a mystery.
Quite how Senator Ozouf proposes to create a “Commissioner” with the complex and far-reaching powers to rationalize Jersey’s housing mess has not so far been explained and the office of Housing Minister – already virtually useless – must inevitably be scrapped along with the pseudo housing control powers of other departments.
To add to the complexities of Jersey housing the looming BREXIT restrictions must also be factored into any reform proposals along with the recently announced “Migration/Population” policies which will add all sorts of discriminatory limitations on the access to housing by many.
Finally I would mention that Senator Farnham has expressed his support for an Air B’n B short let system to be permitted in Jersey and it is already evident that private accommodation is already being widely advertised as available to let under this system. A “Commissioner” could hardly ignore this….