In the last few weeks I have met with housing providers, landlords, and construction businesses, considered some very difficult housing applications, and supported my ministerial colleagues as, among other things, we have launched the budget.
In all this, I always have one thing at the front of my mind – everyone deserves a good quality home. My role is to help turn this into a reality for as many people as possible, within the financial constraints that we face as an Island.
We all know that housing is expensive and that it is sometimes not as good quality as it should be. Our neighbourhoods often could be better, with more amenities, good parking, and welcoming public spaces.
We cannot change this overnight. Any small and prosperous place will have demands on its housing. Yet we can make good progress. That is what this Council of Ministers is doing.
We are working together to build a coherent plan for Jersey, bringing together the priorities we laid out when we took office and translating this into strategic and financial plans and budgets, and perhaps most of all, actions.
In particular, we are making our town a better place to live, work and visit. For example, by investing in infrastructure, and committing to provide more open space in our town. We are investing more in education to improve the prospects of future generations, and in our health services to improve our quality of life, especially as our society ages (and we need to ensure our housing also meets this challenge).
To help us fund all this, we are investing in economic growth – helping people to earn more, helping them into work, promoting competition to constraint the costs of living, and supporting innovation. At the same time, we want to protect our countryside and manage demand on public services and housing, so we are targeting migration that promotes economic growth.
In this context we launched a new housing strategy last month, and asked Islanders to read it and contribute their views. This consultation runs until the Thursday 12 November and you can give comments online at www.gov.je/consultations, by emailing us on firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 448443.
The strategy sets out four objectives – delivering more housing; better quality housing; making the best use of our housing; and improving our neighbourhoods.
We have outlined 18 initiatives to help us do this – for example, developing new home ownership initiatives, detailed housing plans for specific groups, such as key workers and people needing care, using States owned land to support more housing, reviewing policies to encourage less vacant homes, enabling housing trusts to do more, and improving the standards of rental properties.
Indeed, half of the population rent, and in the last few years we have introduced more protection for tenants, while supporting landlords too.
For example, we have made sure that all new tenancies have a simple condition report at the outset and a decent tenancy agreement. A new tenant deposit scheme will also go live on 2 November, tackling a clear problem for many people (more information can be found at www.mydepositsjersey.je).
We are also continuing to investing in social housing – over £230 million in new and better housing (and this investment will repay itself as we collect realistic rents on these better properties).
On another issue, a number of people seem to think we want to scrap housing qualifications. This is not what we are doing. Our Island needs effective migration controls – over both work and housing. That does not mean that we cannot make the current housing market fairer. This is what we will be looking at next year, seeing what might be possible.
As Minister, I believe that the key to improving our overall housing situation is to get the basics right: providing more housing while managing the demand on our housing; preserving our countryside; delivering more and better homes and neighbourhoods in our town, complemented by parish villages which thrive.
Indeed, to make this work, we need to turn our town into the sort of place people really want to live, in the same way as towns elsewhere have reinvented themselves as vibrant and welcoming economic and cultural centres where people want to spend more of their time.
This is our vision. We want your views.