Subsidised housing plan to encourage downsizing

EMPTY-NESTERS and other Islanders with larger houses could be offered subsidised homes to encourage them to downsize and free up family properties, under a scheme being considered by the States housing provider.

Andium, the States-owned social housing provider, says more needs to be done to address the the current housing shortage and would like to open up affordable property schemes for private homeowners who wish to move to smaller accommodation.

The comments come a fortnight after a housing-needs survey estimated that the Island will need 1,100 first-time buyer family homes by 2030 if current population trends continue. IN all, it said that 7,000 new homes were needed by that date.

The Objective Assessment of Housing Needs survey also found that a lack of incentive to downsize from larger properties was an issue in the Island due to high land prices.

It said that older social-housing tenants could be reluctant to move from suitably-sized properties because they might be paying low rents on existing tenancies, while private home owners may find it ‘uneconomic’ to downsize.

Lindsay Wood, head of finance at social-housing administrator Andium Homes, said that downsizing in the private sector was a ‘particular problem’ and that they would like to open its Affordable Housing Gateway, which provides discounted homes for Islanders, to offer properties to those people who might want to move to a smaller house.

She added that the move would help release much-needed family homes, in particular if older residents, whose children had left the family home, moved to smaller properties.

‘We have got people who are equity rich [have a valuable property] in the private sector, but don’t have an opportunity to downsize that would release enough equity for them – particularly after fees,’ she added.

‘We can’t serve those people because they are not on the Affordable Housing Gateway. For purchasing, it is first-time buyers at the moment on the gateway and not for people who are downsizing.

‘The minister would have to open up the gateway to allow us to do that. But if those people had something to downsize into which was attractive to them, and also released enough equity to make it worth their while, then that would also help the churn of the stock and that is definitely something we would be interested in.

‘It is not just about supplying the right property – they have to be attractive for downsizers and that is something we need to discuss with them – but also the right product as well.

‘So, perhaps a deferred payment or a life-long lease, which would allow them to release that equity [is the answer].’

Miss Wood said that with social housing tenants, the development of additional stock that was of a higher standard and more attractive was the key to enabling downsizing.

She added that new developments, such as the planned 165-unit scheme at Ann Court, which was recently given the go ahead by the States Assembly, were key to this.

‘[Ann Court] is predominantly one- and two-bed homes – so that’s singles and couples. A lot of those people would be people who are downsizing and that would free up some family homes,’ she said.

‘Supply is the main issue. At the moment we have got more people on the list looking to live with us, or looking to downsize, than we have stock available.

‘There are people in our stock who are ready to downsize but are on an old rent policy, so if there’s not a substantial decrease in rent, then it is not attractive for them to move.

‘Also, if people are on income support, which 60% of our tenants are, they wouldn’t see a reduction in rent because their claim adjusts by the amount of rent they are being charged.

‘For us, what we are looking for is something attractive for them to move to, and Ann Court would play a part in that.’

Miss Wood said that there were currently about 150 people wanting to downsize on the Affordable Housing Gateway.

Housing Minister Sam Mézec was contacted for comment but did not respond at the time of writing.

Current demand for rental properties on the Affordable Housing Gateway

Studio – 49

1 bed – 371

2 bed – 268

3 bed – 137

4 bed – 42

5 bed – 5

Latest average house prices in Jersey (Quarter 3 2018)

1 bed flat - £253,000

2 bed flat - £358,000

2 bed house - £471,000

3 bed house - £589,000

4 bed house - £908,000