Former Housing Minister Urges Swift Adoption of the Homelessness Strategy
Following the publication of the Homelessness Strategy, from the Jersey Homelessness Strategic Board, the former Housing Minister Senator Sam Mézec is urging the government to accept its findings and publish their response as a matter of priority.
“As Housing Minister, I made tackling homelessness one of my top priorities in office and was pleased to play a part in helping to bring people and organisations together to help construct this strategy. I was struck by the sheer number of Islanders who wanted to be involved because of their first-hand experience in supporting vulnerable people.
My officers were involved in supporting the board’s work and would regularly provide me with feedback which enabled me to start changing things without having to wait until the final strategy was published.
In particular, the Board recommends setting up a housing advice hub, to fill the gap which currently exists and makes it harder for Islanders struggling with housing issues to get the help and advice they need. In anticipation of this recommendation coming, I was able to secure funding in the Government Plan to deliver this and instructed officers to prepare to launch this service early this year, which will be more than just an information centre, but with caseworkers able to provide active support to those who need their help. I am pleased my successor as Housing Minister has committed to completing this work.
At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, I took swift action to set up an emergency housing response team to find housing solutions quickly for people whose lives were disrupted and were at risk of homelessness. I also introduced legislation to ban evictions and freeze rents to protect tenants. I am pleased that this work was commended by the board, and they have sought to build upon it in their report.”
In particular, the strategy highlights the following priorities –
7. Strengthen the role and supply of social housing to ensure that it is better able to meet housing need.
8. Support private sector tenants and landlords to promote positive relationships.
“I am struck by the last two priorities in the strategy which touch upon the areas which I had the most difficulty in getting political support for change on, which partly led to my resignation as Minister.
They have called for action to deliver a greater supply of social housing and improved support for private sector rental tenancies. If the government is serious about securing people’s right to housing, we will need to deliver more social housing, with rents set at genuinely affordable levels so those on lower incomes are not forced into poverty or insecurity. But also, those in the private sector need to know that they are not at risk of having their lives turned upside down at the whim of a landlord. The current government has not got a good track record at these things so far.
As Housing Minister, I worked with other ministers, housing providers and independent members on the Housing Policy Development Board to produce a set of recommendations which will deal with this. I also pre-emptively secured funding in the Government Plan to ensure there would be resources in place to implement these recommendations when they were released. The Chief Minister has had the HPDB report since November but has still not published it.
In the coming weeks when the Chief Minister finally does publish the Housing Policy Development Board’s report and recommendations, I will lodge a proposition in the States Assembly to seek political approval to implement those recommendations so that we do not delay the important work which needs to be done to transform our housing system to ensure Islanders can have homes which are affordable and meet their needs.”
The Jersey Homelessness Strategy report can be read HERE.