This paper co-authored by Brian Coutanche and other
members of the Decade for Eradication of Poverty Coordinating Group was
published in July 2001 and looks at the impact of the housing market in
Jersey on levels of deprivation in the Island.
The Eradication of Poverty Co-ordinating Committee was formed in Jersey
in 1996 as a response to the beginning of the United Nations International
Decade for the Eradication of Poverty. Over time, it consulted with
various individuals and organisations and, in particular, with people
experiencing poverty. The shortage of housing emerged as a major issue in
the problems of poverty in Jersey and since September 2000, the group has
given attention to this issue.
This report contains findings from our own research, as well as
references to documents previously commissioned by the States of Jersey.
Shortage of Accommodation
There is insufficient accommodation in Jersey, and much of what there
is neither affordable nor suitable (note 1) .
This results in hardship, often leading to deprivation and real
suffering for both residentially qualified and non-residentially qualified
Jersey residents, sometimes creating tensions and resentment between the
The shortage of accommodation is not solely attributable to-population
growth. A recent independent report commissioned by the Housing Committee
("the LECG Report" (note 2)) notes that in comparison with 1951, fewer
people live in each dwelling, so more dwellings are needed. There are
various reasons for this: families are smaller; there are more one-parent
families; divorce makes necessary two dwellings for what once was one
family; young people tend to leave home earlier to set up their own
households; people live longer and elderly people often continue to live
in what was previously a family home.
For these reasons, the same numbers of people need more dwellings than
All this puts pressure on housing, even before the effects of a larger
population are taken into account.
Housing problems stems from the shortage of housing, which is of
course, a problem in itself. According to the LECG report:
Dwellings per 1000 persons
LECG states in its summary and conclusions:
From an international perspective, Jersey has a very low number of
dwellings per 1000 persons. Only Ireland in the EU seems to have less
dwellings per head than Jersey. It would take 25 years for Jersey to get
to the present EU average of dwelling per head at its historic build
rate, assuming the population could be held constant in the interim.
The Residentially Qualified
SHORTAGE RAISES PRICES - and begs the question of how much income
should be taken up by housing costs.
LECG observes that house affordability has deteriorated almost
continuously since 1981; it is about twice as difficult to buy a property
in 1999 as in 1985
“Jersey now has property prices which are substantially higher
than anywhere in the UK and probably even higher than Greater London
despite the fact that average incomes are currently estimated to be
about the same in the two countries.”
(LECG Report p71)
This affects everyone but especially those who are not eligible for
States’ assistance. Also, anecdotal evidence suggests that an increasing
number of young people, both Jersey born and others with qualifications,
leave the island in order to be able to afford to become owner-occupiers.
About 58% of the qualified population, live in owner-occupied
dwellings. Many achieve ownership only at high cost to themselves both
financially and socially because both partners need to work to service the
mortgage which in turn has costs of stress in relationships and creates
child-care problems - also with social as well as financial implications.
In financial terms, the cost of various forms of States assistance was
estimated as follows:
Mortgage interest relief
Untaxed benefits in kind(a)
States loan - first time buyers
Private sector rent rebate
Public sector rent below market level
Public sector rent abatement
Housing Development Fund
(a) For example accommodation provided rent-free by employers,
Source: LECG report, page 58
Rented Accommodation - Public and Private
Around 22% of qualified residents live in private rental accommodation.
A further 16% of qualified residents live in “social rented housing” owned
by the States or housing trusts.
Rented accommodation in the private sector is expensive because of
shortage. The States offsets the cost of rent, both in the private and the
public sector, with some limitations; for example those under 25 are not
The market rate is typically high, indicative of demand exceeding
The States, through the Private Sector Rent Rebate Scheme, assists
eligible tenants in the private sector. Assistance is calculated in
relation to a notional fair rental ascribed for the accommodation and
typically 30% below average market rate. Where the actual rent exceeds the
fair rent the tenant must fund the shortfall.
Although rent rebate is offered to allay poverty and allow people to
live in accommodation they otherwise could not afford, it could be argued
that the scheme has also driven up rents allowing landlords to fill
accommodation with tenants at an “unfair” rent. Anecdotal evidence
suggests that rents rose after private sector rent rebate was introduced.
Without rent rebate the actual market rents might drop - but so might
The cost to the States of the private sector rent rebate scheme is £6
million per year.
For those living in States social housing and housing trust properties
as well as those eligible for the rent rebate scheme, the level of
assistance provided is determined in relation to family income. Such
rentals are calculated to be no more than 25% of income. In contrast those
without residential qualifications typically pay over 50% of their income
(and sometimes as much as 70%) towards their accommodation. 85% of States’
tenants pay rentals at levels below the fair rental and therefore far
below the market rate.
Rent abatement costs the States £13 million per year based on the
notional fair rental. This figure rises to £21 million when calculated on
the basis of market rates. In addition, the Parishes contribute to the
costs of those not eligible for States support if they have been in Jersey
for five years.
Government is spending a fortune on subsidising accommodation, but we
need to ensure that these monies are better targeted at those most in
The foregoing has not examined the plight of those who are not eligible
for social housing. These include adults under 25, single men,
ex-prisoners, those in psychiatric units and those ready to move on from
Unstable relationships are sometimes forged based on need for housing
rather than mutual regard; further problems can then arise.
And we have not yet considered those even more vulnerable- the
The Residentially Unqualified
Accurate data is not available but it is estimated that 20% of Jersey
residents do not have residential qualifications - a high proportion. For
those with children the housing situation is often very difficult.
As the law currently stands, a person must have resided in Jersey for
19 years before achieving the right to become a tenant with a proper
lease, or an owner-occupier. There are some exceptions - a few
millionaires per year, and those deemed to be “essentially employed". Some
of these - nurses and teachers for example - are allowed in on five year
contracts, a situation which perhaps causes as many problems as it solves
for the professions (and clients) for whom they work.
The 19-year rule operates to control population through establishing a
disincentive to immigration. Does it work? In many cases, no. When people
have cut off their roots from where they originate, Jersey is “home”. When
people have founded a family (an inalienable human right) and their
children are Jersey born, Jersey is “home”. This is especially true when
children would find their parents’ culture and language foreign if they
‘were to return to their parents’ birthplace.
Where do these non-qualified people live? Apart from a fortunate few
who live in “uncontrolled” properties, the vast majority live in lodgings.
There are lodgings and lodgings. Financial institutions often have smart
(and subsidised) apartments for their staff. Hotels and farms often house
their workers - in varying degrees of comfort. The rest are housed in
registered lodging houses, or unregistered, privately owned or rented
According to the LECG report, lodging house average charges appear to
be about 50% more than other private sector market rate rents (which are
often about 30% more than the States “fair rents” - and considerably more
than the rents that 85% of States’ tenants actually pay) We have reason to
believe that some pay as much as 70% of their income in rent, and often
they have to pay extra for showers and laundry facilities.
No rent rebate is available for non-residentially qualified residents.
Non-qualified residents in lodging houses have no security of tenure -
and may be asked to leave after seven days. They have no assurance of
privacy - the landlord may enter their rooms at any time.
There is also a shortage of lodging house accommodation - in 1998 the
States put a moratorium on the creation of more lodging houses, This has,
however, recently been rescinded.
Conditions are often cramped and sometimes unpleasant. Ironically
improved standards e.g. room size per number of people - which have
recently been implemented, have made matters worse in some cases. As a
baby is counted as a “person”, a couple in a double room may have to leave
if they have a baby. Obviously one double room is not big enough for a
family of three to live in comfortably, but it is far less expensive than
having to rent a larger unit. Remember there is no rent rebate available,
and rents average 50% higher than the market rate in the private sector
for residentially qualified tenants. In any case, children are often
unwelcome in lodging houses as sadly, they often are in the private sector
In general, many lodging houses are unsuitable for family life.
Even where accommodation complies with these regulations, families
brought up in lodging houses suffer various deprivations. Babies sharing
one-room units with parents create marital tension. Children of different
ages lack the space and quiet necessary for proper bedtime routines. If
there is inadequate space, how can children engage in creative play - or
do homework properly, or have friends to play? There is no privacy for
parents either. Anecdotal evidence suggests that children brought up in
such cramped conditions fail to develop properly. At nursery and primary
school they tend to cling to the sides of rooms because they are “afraid"
Lack of space/quiet/privacy/scope for different activities for parents
and children can lead to terrible tensions and family breakdown. In
tolerating these conditions, Jersey is storing up emotional, social and
criminal problems for the future. Indeed that “future” has already arrived
as education and social workers will testify.
But should it be a concern for the community if people elect to subject
themselves (supposing they actually have choice) and their children to
these conditions of deprivation? That is, present policies rely on market
forces to establish an equilibrium at which wages and housing costs find a
level at which the incentive to immigrate is eliminated. It can be argued
that this is equitable in that immigration will only continue so long as
the Island can offer better prospects than available elsewhere in the EU.
Whilst some may find this view acceptable where work of a transient
nature is involved, it sits less comfortably with the situation of those
who in reality have a longer-term association with the Island. It is most
difficult to sustain where families are involved as children may suffer
severe direct and indirect effects of housing deprivation.
Anyone can take five lodgers without any form of control or
registration. Therefore the potential for exploitation is increased in
unregistered lodgings. Fear of being thrown out is a reason often given by
lodgers explaining their problems but ending with the plea, “But please
don’t tell anyone or we’ll be thrown out”.
In the final analysis, the profile of residents is central to any
assessment of the adequacy of lodging house, or other, accommodation. What
may be acceptable for a young, single transient worker is clearly
unsuitable for raising a family.
Possible Solutions and Consequences
The current housing situation is a consequence of supply, demand and
cost. Any proposed solution must therefore address some or all of these
Key present States’ policies are:
• to contain demand through Regulation of Undertakings (controlling
the increase in persons coming to the Island to take up employment) and
Housing Law restrictions controlling the ability of those coming to the
Island to purchase /rent.
• to assist those on lower incomes (through provision of States /
Trust housing at income-related rental, rental rebate, subsidies for
first time buyers).
• to assist anyone purchasing a home through tax relief on mortgage
• to contain supply through limiting further development of green
• to rely on market forces to set the price for accommodation
available to those not eligible to buy accommodation or to access social
housing thereby establishing an immigration equilibrium
• to provide a favourable environment for the expansion of businesses
that offer appropriate employment and / or significant tax revenue.
Option 1 - Continue with Status Quo
The present combination of policies has been particularly successful in
providing employment opportunities thereby directly addressing a root
cause of poverty. Policies have gone some way toward containing demand
(manpower returns indicate something approaching 4,000 unfilled posts,
although employers were only actively recruiting for perhaps only 50% of
this number) and continue to assist many people to rent or buy
accommodation of a higher standard than otherwise attainable. Green field
development has also been contained. However housing stock falls far short
of neighbouring countries and housing is less affordable. Neither have
these policies prevented significant population growth over the last 25
years. As housing is central to quality of life this means that for many
people quality of life is now arguably below that of neighbouring
countries. Interventions have protected many of the poorer in the
community from full exposure to this situation, but not all. In
• some social housing continues to be of a low standard,
• adults under 25, single men and prisoners on release are not
eligible for housing assistance
• some residentially qualified people whose peers in neighbouring
countries might aspire to buy a home find this beyond their means in
• some of the non-residentially qualified accept living conditions
that fall below the standards we regard as acceptable for residentially
qualified. This can particularly affect children raised in these
Assuming the Island’s economy remains buoyant these unsatisfactory
features will remain if these policies are not modified. The long wait for
housing qualifications and the Regulation of Undertakings will continue to
function as an immigration policy. The high cost of buying and renting
will continue to encourage young locals to leave the Island. There will be
continuation and escalation of the poverty associated with housing
problems, and increased division, with accompanying social tension,
between those with qualifications and those without.
Option 2a - Increase Supply
Supply might be increased to meet demand so as to provide a housing
stock comparable with that of neighbouring countries.
As brown field sites may not provide adequate building space to fulfil
the need, and because increased housing density can lead to social
problems some green field sites need to be re-zoned for housing. At
present 6.5% of Jersey is built over, 53% is agricultural land, the
remaining 40.5%, includes many areas of natural beauty. Green fields are
beautiful but the need for adequate housing - a basic human right - must
be weighed against the value we attach to preservation of the beauty of
In considering this option it should be noted that to match current U.K
housing stock Jersey will need to build 5,000 additional dwellings if
there were no further increase in our population.
Option 2b - Contain Demand
Demand might be restrained by capping the population, or taking
advantage of reductions that might occur as a result of economic downturn.
An effective immigration policy is vital if the housing problem is to be
tackled realistically. Without an immigration policy the number of poorly
housed people will continue to increase, together with associated social
problems and tensions.
To pursue this option Jersey will need to find acceptable ways to limit
immigration within an international legal framework (note 3).
Employers can also be encouraged to ensure that staff that they employ
are adequately housed.
Demographic projections suggest that over time a static population will
include a declining pool of economically active that will have to support
the economically inactive. For example, Jersey currently has 3.1 workers
per pensioner, recent projections indicate that the figure will decline to
2.1 by 2030 assuming no net migration (note 4) . Without greater
productivity, this will drive up costs. This, in turn, will encourage
businesses to ‘skill up” their staff.
Option 2c - Control Cost
Key options are:
a) better focus of States subsidies to help the less well off to
b) cost intervention in rent charges, land and building costs, and
control of the transfer of property
c) cost controls of rents in registered and non- registered lodging
These are varied and complicated, but controls such as these may be
thought appropriate in a small island where there is a proportion of
affluent people who can afford high housing costs alongside a sizable
proportion whose means are below the norm.
Unfortunately price controls have not proved effective in the long term
in jurisdictions (including Jersey) where they have been tried. In
contrast, a refocus of States subsidies has the potential to effectively
assist those most in need.
"If the goal of the housing subsidy is to support the poor in
their housing expenditure the then policy is failing…"
"… the extensive, wide and overlapping subsidy system needs to be
pruned so that income support is truly targeted on those that most need
(LECG Report, p73, 74)
Deprivation in Jersey arises both directly in respect of inadequate
accommodation (in relation to prevailing norms in this community) and also
in the experience of marginalisation that this can engender. Whilst many
of the policies that deal with the underlying housing stock will take
considerable time to implement there are immediate opportunities to
address some factors that tend to engender a sense of marginalisation. In
particular, where opportunities for involvement, for example through the
formation of householder groups, can be encouraged this can nurture a
significant sense of partnership and shared responsibility. Frustration is
also a factor experienced by the Housing Department because of the lack of
appropriate accommodation for all those applying for it. It is therefore
important that those who deal with the public should be trained to achieve
consistently high standards of client relations, showing understanding and
Success here will achieve a greater sense of community and partnership.
These options are not mutually exclusive and all of them are fraught
with difficulties - some obvious and some perhaps unforeseeable.
One result of current policies is the social problems stemming from
inadequate housing, which lead to under achievement at school, to social
dysfunction and/or crime. These are economically costly as well as
No government in the world ensures regulated standards of accommodation
to every non-citizen who chooses to arrive, but it is our belief that
sufficient, adequate and affordable accommodation ~should be a right for
Jersey’s permanent residents. The question is how should permanent be
defined? On what basis does the Island recognise an obligation to ensure
that people are entitled to be adequately housed?
Other questions follow. Who will never achieve this entitlement? How
will they be warned or informed so that they are fully aware on arrival
that they are short-term residents only? What length of stay will they be
allowed? How many of these short-term workers do we need? Who will decide
this? What criteria will be used to come to these decisions? What systems
need to be put in place to regulate entry or monitor length of stay?
This report has highlighted areas of poverty related to the housing
shortage. The group concludes that, despite the difficulties identified,
practical and effective actions that the States of Jersey should take
• re-focus financial support to target those in most need
• increase the housing stock, whilst at the same time implementing
some form of immigration control so that this increase is not negated by
population expansion perpetuating the same problems.
(1) On what grounds can an assessment of the sufficiency and
affordability of accommodation be made? One perspective is provided by the
Island's overall objectives. These objectives include the achievement of a
quality of life that continues to compare favourably with that found in
neighbouring countries and a comparable standard of living (2000 & Beyond
Strategic Policy Review 1995, p18). For most people housing plays a
central role in both quality of life and standard of living. Evidence
cited in this report indicates that there is less accommodation available
than in neighbouring countries, accommodation is more expensive and that
incomes, on average, are not higher. Whilst it can be argued that affluent
individuals are at liberty to choose to spend more or less on
accommodation or substitutes (for example, a weekend home in France) this
report is concerned with less affluent members of the community for whom
the high cost of accommodation may be a source of hardship. Finally, it
should be noted that there are significant numbers of inadequately housed
people in neighbouring countries. Ensuring a comparable housing stock will
therefore not be enough to eradicate hardship associated with inadequate
housing in the Island.
(2) Housing in Jersey, A report to the Housing
Committee of the States of Jersey, 4 October 2000, LECG (Law and Economics
(3) See Population Policy: Interim Report, Policy and
Resources Committee, 19 June 2001 paragraphs 39 - 43 for a discussion of
the difficulties associated with implementing an immigration policy.
Population Policy: Interim Report, Policy and Resources Committee, 19 June
2001 paragraph 20