Buying a home in Jersey must become a 'more realistic prospect'

Homes in Jersey are too expensive, there are not enough properties to meet demand and the two-tier rental market is unfair, according to a new report. Credit: PA Images

Homes in Jersey are too expensive, there are not enough properties to meet demand and the two-tier rental market is unfair, according to a new report.

The Housing Policy Development Board has published its findings, six months after its work concluded in October 2020.

It aims to highlight the challenges facing islanders when it comes to the availability, affordability and standard of their homes.

Our aim must be to make the purchase of a home in Jersey a more realistic prospect, and the rental of a home as safe, secure and as stress-free as possible. I acknowledge the Board’s endeavours, am pleased to report that some of the resulting work is already set in motion and can assure that full consideration of the recommendations is very much under way.

Housing Minister, Deputy Russell Labey

The panel wants to ensure that in the future, Jersey has a housing market that provides choice, through:

  • Increased supply across a range of housing types and tenures;

  • Widened access to both affordable ownership and affordable rental;

  • A high-quality market rental offer, that is secure and stable, and whichresidents can access on an equal basis; and

  • Options for those looking to downsize.

The board is made up of ministers, members of scrutiny, former Minister for Housing Senator Sam Mézec, an independent lay member and an independent Chair, Michael de la Haye OBE.


Affordability:

The report echoes the Government of Jersey acknowledgment that housing in the island is expensive and that affordability is one of the main challenges. It says home ownership is 'increasingly out of reach for residents with average incomes'.

  • Overall, housing in Jersey is unaffordable across tenures and among a range of income groups. Affordability therefore acts as a barrier to adequate housing for people in Jersey.

  • Because housing affordability is invariably linked to household earnings, recent house price growth at levels above the growth in earnings has meant that affordability pressures have become more acute in recent years.

  • Housing affordability in Jersey has an impact on households’ ability to access homeownership, and on both the recruitment and retention of key workers.

  • Housing isn’t considered affordable if it is not of a liveable condition, and at present, there have been many reports of sub-standard accommodation in Jersey, although work is underway to improve the standard of rented housing on the Island.


Barriers to Development:

The lack of land available for development, at an affordable price, has been recognised by the panel as the main barrier to building new homes. Other factors include workforce constraints if there are a number of construction projects going on at the same time, planning delays and access to funding.

Despite these challenges, to date developers of affordable housing have been successful in delivering viable schemes. However, as land values rise this is becoming increasingly difficult without support from Government, be that financial or in terms of land supply.

An analysis of Jersey’s current barriers to development finds:

  • The most significant barrier currently facing housing delivery in Jersey is land supply, and its impact on land cost. Land costs, coupled with build costs similar to other jurisdictions with similarly high house prices (such as London and the South East of England), are key drivers of the high cost of housing in Jersey.

  • Due to delays in the release of government-provided land, affordable housing providers are currently competing with open market developers for land. This is a particular challenge for affordable developers (operating without development subsidy), since their below-market rental returns do not support the same cost of land as developers offering housing products at market rates and/or for sale.


Housing Jersey's Ageing Population:

A third of all homeowners in Jersey are over the age of 65 years old, while older people only make up 17% of the island's population. There will be approximately 11,000 more pensioners living in the island by 2035. To maintain a sustainable housing market in this situation, older islanders need more incentive to downsize, freeing up family homes for those in need.

  • There is significant under occupation of housing (living in accommodation with two or more ‘spare’ bedrooms) among older people.

  • The supply and options of housing for older people, are limited in Jersey, with a particular lack of extra-care style accommodation, which anecdotally, acts as a barrier to rightsizing into smaller properties.


Two-Tier Housing Market:

With restrictions on access to rental properties through residential and work statuses, the report states that Jersey has created a two-tier housing market. There is a primary market, accessed by those with residential qualifications or 'licensed' work status, and a secondary market which those without residential qualifications rely upon.

The panel's finding suggest such a system restricts recent migrants’ access to housing:

  • The two-tier market has a negative impact on access to quality, suitable accommodation for some portions of Jersey’s population.

  • In international terms, Jersey and Guernsey are unusual in including restrictions on the occupation of rental dwellings in their local legislation.


Housing's Role in Jersey's Wider Community:

Housing-related market activity makes up a large portion of wider economic activity in Jersey, with rental income representing 15% of Gross Value Added. However, the report highlights the more complex impact housing has on the wider economy.

  • The housing market may be stimulated by growth in the economy, as well as other factors, such as the expectation that the economy will do better in the future.

  • Recent years show that there is a variable relationship between house prices and supply, with house prices generally rising across periods with relatively high and low total supply additions per annum.

  • In addition to providing activity that requires jobs and spending, adequate and sustainable housing provides a platform for wider participation in the economy.


To tackle the most pressing issues, the Housing Policy Development Board has made a number of recommendations across a number of ministerial portfolios.

Some of the suggestions, the government has said, are already being implemented as part of the new 2022-2025 Island Plan.

While the recommendations are not policy and do not commit the Council of Ministers to a particular course of action, the work of the Board provides a good foundation to inform our consideration of this important topic. While the Coronavirus pandemic delayed the Board in the completion of its work, I am particularly grateful that the Board members showed good judgement and diligence in re-examining their conclusions in light of the economic impact of the pandemic.

Senator John Le Fondré, Jersey's Chief Minister

The new Island Plan has been published today (Monday 19 April) as a draft for islanders to share their views on, before politicians eventually give it the final sign off early next year.

625 of affordable homes listed in the plan are already under construction, but it will free up more land for development, which will include 150 affordable homes in rural areas, and 150 on the edges of existing suburban sites.

In total, the aim is for 4,150 extra homes of all kinds to be built by 2025.

You can read the full report here.