Residents speak of worries as housing trust raises rents by 9%

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RESIDENTS of a social-housing trust have spoke of their fears and worries after being given three weeks’ notice of a 9% rent hike – with one tenant saying he might be forced to sell his car to cover the increase.

The Jersey Homes Trust – which owns and manages 839 homes across 24 estates – has begun contacting its tenants to inform them of the increase.

But residents have criticised the organisation for applying the increase during a cost-of-living crisis and for giving three weeks’ notice of the plans.

Richard Hardy (51) has lived in social housing provided by Jersey Homes Trust since 2007 and said that he ‘might have to sell his car’, which he bought only last year, as the increase would see his rent go up by £116 per month.

‘It’s just astronomical and after what we’ve gone through in the last couple of years, it feels like the final nail in the coffin. It’s got to the point where people can’t absorb any more; it’s affecting people more across the board,’ he said.

Mr Hardy, who said that his rent normally increased by between £40 and £50 each year, described the recent upshot in cost as ‘immoral’ and ‘unprecedented’.

‘I have to wonder what’s going up next… sooner or later, something has got to give and something that’s not increasing is wages,’ he added.

Sonja Meacock, who also lives in Jersey Homes Trust-owned housing with her children, said: ‘I’m not sure what to do. I can’t afford to stay in Jersey and I can’t afford to leave.

‘There are a lot of people who are not sure where they are going to get the extra money from.’

Following the announcement, a resident who asked to remain anonymous and who receives a pension, said that the increase would cost them an extra £138 per month.

They said: ‘We’ve cut back as much as we can really. What more can you cut back on? All of the pleasures of life have gone. People are working so that they can keep a roof over their head, put food on the table and pay their bills.

‘They [JHT] sent a letter out on Friday, and you can’t contact them over the weekend. A lot of pensioners were really worried.’

The retiree added that the short notice given by the trust ‘doesn’t give people a lot of time to prepare and budget for the increase’.

A JHT statement said that rent increases for their properties had been kept below the level of inflation, which currently sits at 12.7%.

Trust chairman Philip Le Cornu said: ‘We are mindful of the overall costs associated with living in Jersey and are, therefore, keeping our increase below the rate of inflation. As with all social-housing providers, none of our rents will exceed 80% of the market rate.

‘However, we receive no government funding, and ongoing refurbishment and upgrades of our properties are funded through rental income.’

The JHT describes itself as a not-for-profit organisation and the largest independent provider of social-rented homes.

In 2020 and 2021, the trust froze its rents owing to the impact of the Covid pandemic.

Reform Jersey leader Deputy Sam Mézec expressed ‘shock’ and ‘disappointment’ at the announcement and wrote to the Housing and Social Security Ministers to seek clarity on the hike.

In the letter, he wrote: ‘Reform Jersey’s States Members were disappointed to learn over the weekend that the Jersey Homes Trust has given many of its tenants just three weeks’ notice that they will be increasing their rents by up to 9%.

‘This has come as a shock to many of our constituents who have contacted us and appealed for help. Many of them have no idea how they will pay for this increase and are unaware if any help is available to them.’

He continued: ‘As an accredited social-housing provider, the Jersey Homes Trust is obligated to meet high standards of care for its tenants, and the government has a special interest in working with the trust to help safeguard the wellbeing of the hundreds of Islanders who live in JHT properties.

‘We are disappointed that more notice was not provided to tenants of this rent increase and, given how substantial it is, that no work appears to have been done with the Housing Advice Service to communicate with tenants about what rights they have, including what potential entitlement they may have for financial support through Income Support.’

A meeting with JHT representatives has been requested by Deputy Mézec, on behalf of Reform Jersey, to discuss ‘a better way forward’ regarding engaging with tenants and supporting them through potential rent increases.

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