Reform Jersey
Reform Jersey
Rob Ward

This week a combination of the Alliance Party of government and its allies voted to stop the proportion of affordable homes in the South Hill and Waterfront developments being increased from 15% to 30%.

So how did this happen? 

The answer is somewhat complicated and certainly too complex for Twitter summaries. To begin with, those who opposed the 50% and 30% and affordable housing propositions used some very flawed arguments.

The first was that the scheme would be financially unviable should the States of Jersey Development Corporation (SoJDC) not maintain its profit margins. Particularly South Hill. And some even suggested that banks would not loan money for the development if the change was made. I remind readers that the SoJDC is a States-owned set up. Being backed by the government makes SoJDC attractive to banks. 

So there are serious flaws in these arguments. 

The data produced by the government is based on parameters set by the company who did the “research” . The difference between 15% and 30% affordable return was around £5 million. But both still show a profit. And the argument of the returns for development of the “public realm” lack detail and specific projects linked to them. St Helier has heard promises of regeneration for so long but it is not happening at pace. 

The next and repeated argument was that we have a ready to go project. Indeed the Constable of St Helier opposed the 30% figure for this reason. But is this a valid argument? Before the vote, all members received an email from the Environment Minister that explained how, even with planning applications before the end of 2021, building would start at the very earliest at the end of 2023. With the build taking a number of years to be completed in stages. This is hardly ready to go. 

So why was the Alliance Party of government and its allies so keen to stop this proposition? There was also the argument that these “prime” sites such as South Hill should be income generators for later projects which will be a key source of affordable housing. But there is a serious question over this from the government's own attempt to amend the proposition. 

The amendment I refer to was eventually rejected by the Bailiff as it was not addressing the main proposition. But there was a clue in this amendment of the government's real intention as it would have asked the Assembly to agree to 15% affordable housing on all future developments. 

So much for these so-called “ready to go“ projects being drivers for future affordable housing projects. Or do we have an Alliance government and their allies that have created the SoJDC as a States property developer with profit as a driver, not the provision of affordable housing? After all they refuse to accept we have a housing crisis. We have a crisis of approach to solving our housing affordability crisis. Like an Ostrich with its head in the sand hoping it will go away. 

And as for the alleged projects of shared equity etc that will enable first time buyers to get onto the housing ladder. Well with prices of 2 bedroom flats around £600,000 will this really be a reality for the majority? And I note that when asked for a price of the homes being built in these developments, the Housing Minister could not give any figures in the debate. And comments from the Social Security Minister about people working hard to save are simply insulting to young people, couples and families paying extortionate rents for insecure homes. 

Future is bleak for those not on the mythical housing ladder. Assembly members with the wrong political drivers for Jersey and in denial of the reality of a housing crisis. And generations of people for whom the housing ladder is a pipe dream. 

Using States land to build what will be homes that are out of reach for so many of our community is wrong. And the confused, convoluted and fundamentally flawed arguments that enable poor decisions are the worst of our politics. 

We need a 'New Deal' for Jersey with an emergency housing plan at the heart of our government's plans. Reform Jersey will provide this within the first week of being elected. 

For reference;
Struthian meaning: Of, pertaining to, or resembling an ostrich. adjective.