High rent protests gather pace in Jersey

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Rent controls are needed to tackle ineffective housing policy in Jersey, a leading politician has claimed.

With wages lagging behind inflation, the spending power of islanders is less than it was a year ago, as the cost of housing continues to outstrip rising prices.

The average pay rise during the past 12 months was 3.5% - but inflation is ahead at 4.5%, stoked by higher fuel prices and increasing housing costs.

For islanders housing costs have increased by 6% since July 2017. Deputy Kirsten Morel, chairman of the Economic Affairs Scrutiny Panel, said that the trend was concerning.

“People could end up trying to find somewhere to live outside Jersey if they are struggling to support themselves and they are spending a lot of money on housing costs,” he said.

“While rising oil prices could not be controlled, the States needed to review housing costs.”

In the long term, the Jersey government has plans to build 2,000 affordable homes by 2025, however Morel argues this action falls short of what is needed.

“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,” he said.

“The free market model of increasing housing supply to lower prices isn’t working.

“It is taking too long to build homes and it always does in a place like Jersey, where people are very sensitive about planning controls and you have limited space.

“For this to be effective we would have to be building far more than we are.”

Morel’s comments follow the launch of an online petition protesting about high rents in Jersey.

“Rents are far too high. Rents should be around 30% of people's salaries. The present rents are causing rent distress in individuals and businesses to close,” says the petition started by protester Jan McAllister.

So far, she has garnered 2,945 signatures - breaking through the 1,000-signature target required to trigger a response from ministers.

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