By Ted Vibert
IT’S an unpalatable fact that for young people living in Jersey owning a house with a garden in the Island is never going to happen, unless they are in a partnership, married or the bank of Mum and Dad is in a healthy state and both are earning top-of-the-range salaries. Even then, it is almost ‘mission impossible’.
But that’s not surprising.
Young people living in Monaco, Paris, Inner London, New York, even Devon and Cornwall, face many of the same problems. Most people, young and old, live and grow up in flats in these places and accept that as a way of life and the price they have to pay for making the choice of living there.
Over the years, successive Island governments have made really strenuous efforts to overcome the problem and make ownership of a house more affordable. But it has been a losing battle – and many groups of residents in various parishes have helped to create what has now become a serious crisis.
The Constable of St Helier was quite correct when he argued that the parish was being asked to carry the burden to solve the problem with the amount of new flats that are being built or have received planning permission in town.
He is also right when he argues that if the country parishes were prepared to share the burden and allow 200 houses to be built in each parish, this would go a long way to ease the pressure and reduce the cost that has been created by a shortage of houses available for sale.
It is fundamental economics that a shortage of a product or commodity increases its cost – and we all know that.
But the Constable’s sensible proposal has only two chances of being accepted by the parishes – none and a snowball’s chance of surviving in a fire. For a start it places the parish Constable of an affected parish in an uncomfortable position, in that he needs to get elected and he knows that such a proposal will be incredibly unpopular with his parishioners, as they don’t wish to lose any of their ‘green’ fields, and the four local States Members representing that district are in the same electoral bind. You could write the script now of the speeches that will be made at the parish assemblies that will have to approve such a scheme, so predictable will they be.
The same exaggerations will be trotted out. ‘So, do we want Jersey to be like Hong Kong?’ will head the list, always uttered by someone who has never been to Hong Kong and can’t realise what a preposterous exaggeration that is. Or ‘Jersey is going to be covered with concrete and is this the kind of Jersey we want to leave our children?’ will certainly be repeated ad nauseam.
Yet it is likely that those very people will be the first to complain that because of the high price of houses in Jersey their children are leaving the Island.
In the light of all this opposition, it is important that the supply of flats is kept growing to met the needs of the community.
Fortunately, not only do we have a number of enterprising private developers such as Dandara to fulfil this need, we also have a number of housing trusts who provide a large number of lower-cost rental properties.
And, of course, the States replaced the old Housing Committee when we changed over to ministerial government, and they created Andium, a wholly owned government company, to provide ‘subsidised housing’, which offers flats or houses for those who are unable to afford to buy their own property or pay the free-market rents.
Andium, who currently own and administer over 6,500 homes, are planning to meet the requirement of the current Island Plan of providing 1,400 homes( mainly with high-quality flats) and are on target to do so, as well as being responsible for a massive improvement programme for existing housing stock which had been so sadly neglected by previous housing administrations.
The other government enterprise totally involved in helping this project of housing provision is the Jersey Development Company, which has a completely different mission.
Amongst a number of tasks, they are principally charged to do the following:
Maximise the delivery of much-needed homes providing a mixture of tenure to support the States target of 1,500 new homes by 2032 with a specific focus on place-making.
Achieve an attractive risk-adjusted return for strategic investment over the mid-term, recognising the social and environmental investments.
Support the States in its strategic review of property and continue to be the States property development department partner for mixed-use/mixed-tenure development and major regeneration projects.
This year the JDC will complete 467 residential units –187 at the College Gardens site in Rouge Bouillon (the old Ladies’ College) and 280 at Horizon, on the Waterfront. It is a pity that some States Members who should know better continue to say that the JDC are building ‘unaffordable’ homes and they should be made to build ‘affordable’ homes. That is the function of Andium Homes, which they are fulfilling
In any case,their claim is wrong in every respect. Had they bothered to check , they would have been told the facts, which are:
40 of the units at the College Gardens project were sold to the Jersey Homes Trust for social renting; 40 others were sold to first-time buyers who met the eligibility criteria, taking advantage of the generous shared-equity scheme. Of the remaining 387 sold on the open market in these two major projects, 135 have been purchased by first-time buyers. It is grossly misleading and irresponsible for senior members of the States to keep suggesting that the JDC is building ‘unaffordable’ homes.
To help people afford their own home, the JDC have pioneered a new deposit scheme that enables a first-time buyer to secure their own unit with a £2,000 deposit, with the remainder of the 10% required paid off in monthly instalments during the building period. This has helped 117 first-time buyers to purchase their home.
The States have now agreed that all JDC residential schemes must deliver 15% of subsidised homes and these must be purchased through the shared-equity scheme and can only be bought by an owner-occupier, ruling out buy-to-let purchasers.
The time has certainly come for politicians and parents to start being honest with their children and prepare them for the fact that starting married life in a flat is not a disaster and they can have a perfectly happy family life without having their own house and garden, especially if the place where they live has plenty of parks and gardens nearby – which is the secret of a pleasant St Helier.