The impact of a high rate of empty homes is far reaching. Not only does it put unnecessary pressure on the need to build more homes, but it also diminishes the quality of neighbourhoods and our environment. Not all vacant homes are visible, or indeed in a state of dilapidation, but they have no less of an impact on the supply of homes and the sustainable wellbeing of our communities.
Islanders, quite-understandably, struggle with the idea of rezoning green fields and the intensification of St Helier and other built-up areas in order to accommodate the new homes needed to support our population. As an Island with finite land, it is so important that we focus on making better use of the homes we already have, and this includes addressing the issue of homes being left empty for long periods of time.
Empty homes restrict our housing supply, can reduce the value of nearby properties and can become a liability rather than an asset to an owner. They also attract anti-social behaviour and vandalism, damage the quality of the built environment and can become a health and safety concern.
The Empty Homes Service launched in January this year following the publication of the Action on Vacant Properties Plan. The service looks to help bring empty homes back into use, and makes use of a community-led reporting system where Islanders can report homes they believe to be left vacant, and where owners of vacant homes can also come forward to seek advice and guidance when they need it.
The purpose is to better understand the nature and causes for homes being left empty, whilst working to develop effective means for this issue to be better managed in the future. There are many reasons why a home might be left empty, and it is already very clear that each case is different, with often complex and personally challenging factors at play. By first understanding the reason for a home being left empty for a long period of time, it means we will be more likely to take the right action to support that home becoming available once again in Jersey’s housing market.
The launch of the Empty Homes Service earlier this year saw a strong public response leading to 260 homes being identified in its first six months. This represents 29% of the estimated 900 homes that are believed to be truly vacant. Work is well underway to evaluate each home that has been identified to the service and soon we will be publishing an update that will provide Islanders with a summary of what has been learnt so far, and what next steps the Minister for Housing and Communities will be taking next.
It’s really clear that people care about this issue, and the Minister for Housing and Communities remains committed to reducing the number of empty homes in Jersey. For every home that is brought back into use, that is one less that we need to build.
If you are an empty home owner who needs some help, or if you know of an empty home that the service should be looking into, you can get in touch with us at www.gov.je/emptyhomes, by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling us on 01534 441614.