Sunday, 19 October 2008

Housing Crisis

The housing situation in Jersey is a disgrace. It has been going on for so long that it just seems like part of life, like people getting sick, rainy days or crab paste sandwiches. That the average Jersey person cannot buy a house or rent one without state support is not a normal part of life however, it has come about through States policies and the "free" market. It can be challenged.

In the 1999 elections I researched the matter of affordable housing. It was as simple as typing "affordable housing" into a search engine. This is the sort of thing that came up . I did more research on shared equity schemes and publicised them in my election campaign, through my leaflets and at the hustings. States members did not want to discuss this and I was told that the idea was a non-starter due to some sort of legal problem, but I kept going with the idea because anything that helps people get their own home is important.

I was not that pleased to see the "Fly" column in the JEP, last week refer to Freddie Cohen's new idea of shared equity housing schemes in his 2005 election manifesto. Well, I know that ideas do not belong to people and being noble means that I should really not be bothered. In fact, it was good that he developed the idea. On the other hand, at the very least, I'd like to make him parade up and down town with a loudhailer, shouting out "It was not my idea"

Seriously, there is so much money here that if the Jersey government wants people to own their homes, then they have the power to make it possible. Why don't they roll out shared equity to all sorts of properties for residents of this island?

And why not reintroduce price control on the sale of houses? It was done in a bad way in the past, arguably very unfairly, but why not a transparent scheme set at today's valuations, allowing a small percentage increase each year? Current home owners would not lose out.

Any election candidate who even suggests the possibility of house price control can expect to be demonised by the local media, so it's hardly a vote winner, but sitting States members could investigate the matter. Why don't they? Is it laziness or is there a desire to keep property prices high? Jersey's government has a large proportion of millionaire property owners and developers, and the type who agree with everything they say. Every community has problems with corruption and plain self interest.

When price control was used in the 1980s it was an unfair scheme and very unpopular. However, it meant that people could buy a house with a deposit of a a few thousand pounds, an amount which it was possible to save, even in those days, and the knock-on effect of price control on all house sales was that rents were much more reasonable too.

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