Minister: States’ social housing rent policy could be scrapped

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Speaking before a Scrutiny panel this week, Senator Mézec said he wanted this to be top of the agenda when a new Housing Policy Development Board started its work.

The formation of the board was announced last week following the release of a report on housing needs in the Island for the next decade.

The board is to be responsible for policy decisions about the number and type of new homes that are required.

‘I want this to be one of the top pieces of work [the board] does in its early days,’ Senator Mézec told the Environment, Infrastructure and Housing scrutiny panel.

But he said he did not want to commit to a timeline for the policy’s review.

‘There are a lot of people in social housing and some are quite vulnerable in their situations,’ he said. ‘I don’t want to put false hopes in people’s minds.’

As it stands when a new or existing tenant enters into a tenancy agreement, rent is calculated at 90% of the rent that would be charged for an equivalent property in the private sector.

For those who were in the same social housing units before the policy came into effect in 2013, however, rents can be lower.

Senator Mézec said he had opposed the move to peg social housing to the private sector at the time the policy was set and still found the arrangement ‘impractical’.

‘The point is it needs to be affordable,’ he said.

At the moment, the average paid by tenants across Andium stock is 79% of private-sector value and 40% of tenants are paying the full 90%.

The panel heard on Tuesday that bringing all Andium tenants up to the 90% peg would provide an additional £6.8 million in revenue to the social housing provider.

Panel member Deputy Kirsten Morel was also critical of the policy, saying hewould like to see the methodology by which Andium arrived at a figure for rents.

Senator Mézec said the process was problematic as it was difficult to compare Andium properties to the private sector, as the quality tended to be really good in Andium properties while the private sector quality could be ‘really bad’.

But Deputy Morel said the discussion around social housing should not be about quality.

‘You should be talking about price,’ he said, pointing out that Andium charged £900 for one-bedroom flats in the centre of town and two-bedroom flats are over £1,100.

‘Those aren’t social housing figures if you ask me,’ he added.

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