Sunday, February 23, 2014

Affordable Jersey Housing - the IMPOSSIBLE DREAM

Below is a 3 part discussion engaging Deputy Rob Duhamel - "Planning Minister", Architect  Derek Mason and Greg Woods of JECOhomes.
The subject is "Affordable Housing"....


This week the JEP reported on the publication of the Inspector’s Report re the Jersey Island Plan Interim Review looking at revisions to the Green Zone etc.

The same two planning inspectors from the UK – Chris Shepley and Alan Langton – who approved the Environment Department’s Draft Island Plan   (just a couple of years ago) almost inevitably endorsed their own previous decisions. So by and large nothing changes – except that the three greenhouse sites are now back on the agenda again for re-zoning for housing developments.

Whether they will ever be built on is not at all certain because Parish opposition is great  and nobody knows if the owners will agree to sell the land for so called “affordable” housing or not and compulsory purchase is not only the very last resort but is also a very long and expensive process.

Extraordinarily, just a day or so before the JEP published details from the Inspectors’ findings there was a Scrutiny Panel hearing - Deputies Hilton and Reed with the Housing Minister Deputy Green and his team. There was no mention of the Inspectors’ Report at that hearing!

Yet it was evident – even to Deputies Hilton and Reed I hope – that the housing development plans of government are the same shambles as always. There are virtually no new houses likely to be built in the very near future – affordable or otherwise – and the 760 families on the “social housing” list with urgent needs will be sleeping in unsatisfactory conditions for many years to come.

And they are only the tip of a very big iceberg because the true housing needs of this Island have never been properly quantified and many – probably most – of those with urgent housing needs with housing “quals” are living somewhere in the “private” sector which has the worst accommodation in the Island.

Of course it is not all bad accommodation and some is available to rent at more reasonable cost – but mostly privately rented units are of poor standard and expensive and totally unsuitable for anybody with disabilities or even children to care for.

That is not to mention the “MISSING 10,000” either. That is the most sordid and disgraceful aspect of the Jersey Housing game – the 10,000 (officially nearer 10,500) working adults (plus children) who do not have “quals” and therefore do not even feature in the existing house provision plans or statistics. Of course this problem makes the 760 look like a very small matter and at long last the Inspectors’ have finally acknowledged my pleadings (and the words of very few others) that something must be done. On page 31 of their 50 plus pages Report they say;

“We register our concern that insufficient priority has been given to the implementation of Policy H9. At any future review/EIP specific attention should be given to the needs of people in this sector [i.e. those without quals] and to the adequacy of Policy H9 and its implementation”

In other words the 10,500 must be planned for. A huge member of new houses and flats are required and for the most part they do not even feature in the existing Island Plan. So never mind about “Population Control” – the real problem is already here and the provision of “Affordable Housing” is a far greater problem than anybody dared suggest. So tear up the Island Plan and start again. Three greenhouse sites will not solve the problem. We cannot go on stuffing more and more houses into the St Helier “ghetto” and the existing “urban” areas. The need is for affordable housing accommodation with space and views, fresh air, parking and peace and quiet – just like people who have a choice build for themselves in the country parishes. Building tomorrow’s town slums should not be a part of any planning agenda.

The video discussion here features Planning and Environment Minister Deputy Rob Duhamel, Architect Derek Mason and Greg Woods of was recorded before the Inspectors’ Report was published.

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