Alliance unveils housing plan in first policy paper

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BUILDING higher, easing restrictions on new developments by reducing the need to provide parking, tighter population controls and help for first-time buyers are among the measures proposed by Jersey Alliance to solve the Island’s housing problems.

The newly formed political party, which includes five ministers and four assistant ministers, has issued a policy paper highlighting issues related to housing and the party’s proposed solutions.

The paper is one of two published today by Alliance Jersey, which plans to elect a party leader next month who would become their candidate for Chief Minister voted into the States in the general election on 22 June.

In a broad introductory paper titled ‘A Vision for Jersey’, the party outlines measures to protect and promote the Island as a ‘vibrant, inclusive, self-confident community’.

Housing is identified as one of the key issues, with the paper setting out a series of proposals aimed at increasing supply and achieving greater affordability for Islanders.

Sir Mark Boleat, policy director for Jersey Alliance, said the policy paper had been based on evidence from a series of recent reports, as well as from his experiences as chairman of Andium Homes and the Jersey Development Company.

He said: ‘We have to help people by building much more housing.

‘Supply should be increased by relaxing requirements for car-parking spaces and height restrictions, releasing surplus government-owned land, removing constraints on the Jersey Development Company requiring pre-contracts before it can commence construction, and increasing Andium’s programme from 3,000 new affordable units to 5,000 by 2030.’

The party also favours constraining the demand for housing through strict enforcement of population policies. Only those with residential qualifications, or who demonstrate a beneficial contribution to the Island, should be able to buy or rent housing, the paper argues.

Existing policy for the provision of parking in housing developments ‘has got out of hand’, the party asserts, saying this has been an issue behind ‘conflicting public policy decisions’ that had caused some housing projects to become undeliverable.

Changes to transport policy, including an enhanced bus service and extended car-share schemes, would enable parking provision to be reduced, while height restrictions could also be eased in certain areas, the paper states.

The party’s policy proposals incorporate recent criticism by the Housing Policy Development Board and a Scrutiny panel about delays in releasing government-provided land. The party calls for greater urgency in this area.

Proposals for the Island’s planning system, which the party describes as ‘simply unable to cope’, include increasing the scope for small-scale developments without planning permission, allowing residential conversions and the introduction of less rigid regulations for listed buildings. The policy document also suggests helping older Islanders to downsize, saying that offering personal support and advice throughout the moving process has been shown to be more effective than cash incentives.

Rents for social housing should not exceed 80% of market rents, the party states, while a further point says that the Jersey Homelessness Strategic Board recommendations should be implemented in full.

Help for first-time buyers is another key aspect of the party’s proposals, with a focus on schemes that make it easier for Islanders wanting to get on the property ladder to raise the necessary deposit.

Schemes that provided shared equity or helped buyers to defer a proportion of the purchase price of a home would make homes more affordable for first-time buyers, the paper argues. The party also advocates the end of the current two-tier market for rental homes, with a move to allowing equal access for anyone entitled to work in Jersey.

Sir Mark said the policy paper reflected the party’s ‘current thinking’ and was ‘not our final word’. The party manifesto, to be published around the start of May, would incorporate confirmed policies, he added.

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