Wednesday, 5 September 2018

The Housing Minister and Andium Homes

The Housing Minister and Andium Homes

The JEP reported recently:

“The annual rent increase for thousands of Islanders living in social housing has been postponed after ‘concerning’ earnings and cost of living figures were released by the States. Ian Gallichan, chief executive of Andium Homes, said the board has ‘strongly recommended’ that the current uplift policy is reviewed. 

‘We recognised that the June RPI at 4.5 per cent would have caused, under the current States’ Rent Policy, an annual increase in rent of 5.25 per cent for our tenants,’ he said”

And Sam Mezec has this to say:

“I am delighted to reveal that it has been agreed that Andium Homes rents will NOT be increased this year. I said during my election campaign that we needed to find a new, fairer and sustainable way of charging social housing rents, which doesn’t cause hardship for poor or vulnerable Islanders. I also said that rents should not be increased whilst this happens. Work will now begin to find a better way. I thank the board of Andium and the Treasury Minister for their understanding and support.”

Now the cynic might think that this is a Minister taking credit for a decision by the board of Andium, and I must confess - having seeing “Yes Minister” where Hacker does just that for a decision made by others, and a former Assistant Minister who jumped on any publicity bandwagon -  I was inclined to cynicism - but I have checked and can confirm from my own private source within the Council of Ministers that this is not the case.

Sam has indeed been in discussions with Andium regarding this rent increase and the deferral to the end of the year. Meanwhile, he is also in discussions to look at the long term policy past the end of the year.

As he himself said:

“The current freeze is meant to be so we can work out a new rent calculation system which is fairer than the current one. We hope to have completed that work in January. ’ll think you’ll find this was proposed in our election manifesto way back in April and supported by the Chief Minister in our agreement with him signed at the beginning of June.”

The agreement states:

“It is agreed that a Policy Development Board on Social and Affordable Housing will be established, which will work with the Housing Minister to research and develop a fair rent regulation system for social and private accommodation. Social housing (i.e. Andium) rents will be frozen whilst this work takes place”

Unfortunately, as former Reform candidate Sarah Westwater commented, the Andioum freeze doesn’t apply to Homes Trusts: “Can you work on the Homes Trust as well please?”

However, I remain quietly optimistic that something will be worked out in negotiation for them as well, and hopefully Sam can provide an update in due course.

[Since this blog was first written, I was informed that there would be a moratorium by Jersey Homes Trust on a rent increase, but embargoed from publishing until it was official. Today, BBC Radio Jersey broke story that JHT are freezing rent increases for 6 months]

It is worth noting that Deputy Kirsten Morel, who is not a Reform candidate, and actually stood against one, also agrees on this matter. Recently he said about the dysfunctional housing market:

‘What we need to be looking at is other options such as rent controls, a land value tax or an empty property tax. We need to do a proper analysis of these.’

An Opportunity to Help Others

In the meantime, Sam also posted this on Facebook:

“Over the last couple of years, my dad and I have been raising money for Youthful Minds, which is a group of young people volunteering for Mind Jersey to provide support for other young people struggling with mental illnesses. This September we are teaming up with others for a sponsored walk from St Malo all the way to Dinan. If you can spare any money, all donations will go to such a good cause, and I will be in significant pain at the end of the walk, so that’s got to be worth something!”

I think this is a very good cause, and have put my money where my mouth is, in recompense for my earlier cynicism!

I’d like to recommend that my readers to also donate. I think the distance is some 20 miles.

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