Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Minutes of Amos June meeting

Some searching comments on Income Support, followed by an interesting talk by Deputy Sean Power on Housing in Jersey. I remember Deputy Philip Rondel, when he was canvassing last year, pointing out that people are buying and selling on first time properties even before they move in.

I still think that a property capital gains tax on the French model - which diminishes the tax payable over a fixed period (perhaps in Jersey three years), would raise revenue and target property speculation, which either with first time buyers or elsewhere, distorts the market. Of course, a mention of capital gains tax always has people saying we don't want the UK capital gains tax, which is very insular, as there are many models for capital gains, and the French seems quite fair and just. It targets people who want to just make a quick buck out of buying and selling, rather than genuine owners.

Minutes of meeting on Wed. June 3rd at 5.15 at  St. Helier Methodist Centre.

Present: Adrian Walton, Adrian Pearce, Christine Le Marquand, Ed Le Quesne. Apology: Barbara Coram.

1.   The opening prayer was a challenging one by St. Augustine

2..  Comments on the Green Paper on Licensing Law review have been submitted before the June 1st deadline.  We generally welcome the reforms proposed.

3.   Eco-active guide 'Turning point' - Two more people took copies.

4.   Income Support scrutiny panel is finding the application process is not clear to users and there is a lack of personal support for vulnerable claimants.  Though HIE has ended there is not a clear process in place to ensure that people in need have access to free X-rays.  It is presumed that those with £250 of savings are earning interest at £1 per week!! Also savings have to be used up to meet special payments.  Some benefits such as family allowance should be available before 5 years of residence.  We would like people to be informed early of the change to their benefit when the transition period finally ends so they can be prepared for it. The report should be out this month.

5  The Employment Forum has circulated a paper looking at whether those in therapeutic work should be entitled to the minimum wage. Adrian Pearce has some experience in this field and will prepare a reply.

6. ELeQ spoke of the benefits of an account with Triodos Bank, which invests in ethical businesses and has continued to prosper over the past  year.  The Bank began in Holland and has a UK base in Bristol.  He has had an account for several years

7. There was a look at the range of articles in the recent Jersey Link.  On inspection it was not too biased towards the JEA, though those present had not had time to read it all.

8.  Date of next Amos meeting was set for Wed . July 1st at 5.15 back at Pastoral Centre.  

9.  At this point Deputy Sean Power, assistant Housing Minister, arrived on his bike after a long day in the States.  He said the the Residential Tenancy Law (RTL) report has been tabled and will be debated and hopefully approved next month.  It will ensure that there is a document setting out clearly the duties of landlord and tenant. To the comment that it was a lot of bureaucracy, he said that some landlords needed to raise their game.

The next step is a migration policy that will give every person in Jersey a card with their name, address and number.  This will clarify exactly who is working in Jersey. Then there will be a tenant deposit scheme, probably making use of the Community Bank.  Then there will be regulation and inspection of the unqualified sector  Long awaited but I believe firmly on track now.

Soon Professor Whitehead's review of social housing will be published.  She is likely to recommend that the Housing Dept is put alongside Housing Trusts, and private landlords under a Jersey Housing Authority.
Reducing the 12 year quallie period to 11 years recently meant that 157 extra people could buy though only about 50 could afford to buy.  The aim is to reduce the period to 10 years eventually

When rent rebate was introduced in 1992, it cost £1.7m, now it takes £23m p.a. a big part of the Housing budget and means there is a small sum left to maintain States housing. The main beneficiaries have been landlords who have raised their rents as the rebate has risen.   Money is being raised by selling properties.  The States have just decided to cut the number allowed in to 300 a year for the next 3 years then review again.  The number of J cat has been sharply reduced, companies are expected to find local candidates.  Also unlimited J cat have been stopped and are issued  for 3 year periods and will then be reviewed.

He gave us the surprising figure that 88% of States tenants have an income of less than £12k p.a.   He  also gave us a figure of 780 single Mums with one of more children requiring accommodation.  Added to this very high figure is fact that many of them don't have simple housekeeping and cooking skills.  He has been to Guernsey to see a hostel type scheme which brings young mums together to offer them support  and training in life skills.

Deputy Power is aware that some people are buying first time buyer properties and selling them for profit before they even move in!  He will be ensuring contracts specify no onward sale for a minimum of 5 years as used to be the case.

Mr. Eric Le Ruez is soon going to be appointed as chair of the rent tribunal in Jersey to give some independent view on a fair rent, which hasn't been in place recently.

Deputy Power has not enjoyed some of States business with the unstatemanlike behaviour, but is enjoying the Housing work and his work in St. Brelade and he set off by bicycle for home, tea and a meeting at Communicare in the evening.  

We are very grateful for his frank exchange of views and for the energy he is bringing to housing policy. 

The Meeting finished  6.30
Ed Le Quesne   4 /  6 /  09

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There has been adverse comment recently about people buying first time buyer designated homes and selling them for a profit without even moving in. A capital gains tax could sort that out.