WHAT WE WANT
We believe that Jersey has a chronic shortage of social housing and affordable starter homes for young people desperate to get on the property ladder. A recent report claims that we are facing a shortfall of 760 homes over the next 3 years, another that we are 2,100 housing units short of our current needs.
We believe that tackling homelessness starts with knowing who and where homeless people are, so they can be offered emergency accommodation and other life opportunities. We believe that a Homeless Register would make it easier for social services and other support agencies to identify those at risk of physical, psychological and sexual abuse. It would also allow those services and agencies to better understand the causes of homelessness in order to prevent it in future.
As of September 2015, 985 people were on the housing gateway waiting list (in bands 1, 2, 3 & 6 (indicative of true demand)). This will come as no surprise to those who are now being told there is a two year waiting list to upsize in order to accommodate their growing families, or to the severely disabled, who can wait for years for any kind of suitable accommodation at all.
We are aware of at least one severely disabled woman (assessed as 95% disabled by Social Security at the time) who spent two years sleeping on a friend’s sofa and in a bed designed for a child whilst waiting for accommodation to become available and all the while being told she was at the top of the priority list. The experience further damaged her physically and caused her a great deal of unnecessary stress.
When she was eventually housed, it was in entirely unsuitable accommodation, accommodation which is incapable of being adapted to her needs. She resides in this desperately unsatisfactory situation to this day as Housing/Andium Homes have refused to rehouse her in a wheelchair friendly or properly disabled adapted property. This state of affairs is reprehensible yet fairly typical of the way disabled people are treated.
On top of which, there are many other people on housing association waiting lists and an estimated 250 people facing the prospect of sleeping rough every night and 400 people homeless.
We believe that these figures should shame us but they are also indicative of the kind of hard conversations we need to have with ourselves.
We believe that Jersey is massively overcrowded. We see this in our schools, on our roads and in our infrastructure generally. Jersey has an official population of around 102,800 with a density of over 2,121 people per sq. mi. By comparison the UK has a population density of around 679 people per square mile. This places us 13th in the list of most densely populated countries. An accolade most of us do not revel in.
We believe there is an over-supply of one bedroom flats in the housing stock and believe that future social housing developments should address the needs of the disabled, those with young families or those older residents with grand-children therefore, building two and three bedroomed dwellings should take precedence allowing people to down size or upsize with greater ease.
A Difficult Conversation
Solving this issue in a place like Jersey will be difficult. We either need to build more houses (760 see above) or we need to bring our population down to a manageable and sustainable level whereby fewer houses will need to be built.
If we decide that we need to build more houses then we need to decide what kind of houses they will be, how they will be paid for, where they will be built and over what time-scale.
Despite recent development, (some may say overdevelopment) we continue to live in an extraordinarily beautiful part of the world. Most Jersey residents would say, if asked, that they wish to keep Jersey beautiful and that would necessarily mean fewer housing developments. On the other hand, they would also say they wish their sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters to have suitable and affordable accommodation in which to live. Something we cannot have unless we agree to build more homes. This is the tension in the argument and something has to give.
If on the other hand, we decide we have too many people and we need to rationalise our immigration system to reflect this reality, then we also need to decide how we best go about that, in the fairest and most equitable way for the people of Jersey. (The issue of immigration will be addressed later).
We believe that in the event that Jersey continues to be incapable of controlling the numbers of people coming here, then there would be some considerable merit in returning to the previous 20-year rule.
We further believe that the availability of work licences is far too prevalent, the exceptions to the rules far too numerous and too broadly defined. Due to Jersey’s current relationship with the UK and the EU (subject to change post-BREXIT) we are not in control of our own immigration policy. We are however, in control of housing, work and benefits rules and should use these powers to alleviate many of the stresses in our Island which everyone apart from our current political elite seems to be aware of.