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.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Jersey's appalling human rights record again...but who cares?

We tried to post this on the SSTAG - Social Security and Tenants Action Group - blog but Google seems to have played around yet again with the password.
If anybody knows how to communicate with Google or how to rectify the problem please make contact....

So we are looking at the European Social Charter of the Council of Europe which almost every other place in Europe has signed up to....
but not Jersey of course....
and we doubt if any of the current COM have ever heard of it or care to find out.....

Council of Europe Social Charter….

A recent Daily Mail headline predictably screamed against the Council of Europe
“Double your dole, Eurocrats tell UK”.

For the average reader it would have been just another poke at the EU – but in fact the Council of Europe is not the EU at all but another organisation entirely.

Not that this would bother the Daily Mail too much with its insular view of the world and its policy to oppose any progressive trends – especially those that seek to improve the lives of ordinary working people…

So this latest rant was aimed to ridicule the most recent report from the Council of Europe arising under the European Social Charter which was signed up to by the UK in 1962.

The Charter is the companion document to the European Convention on Human Rights so that alone is reason for the Daily Mail to reach for the reject button.
Unfortunately, the paper is popular in Jersey so many thousands of the local electorate devour its contents and absorb its prejudices along with those so readily published by the JEP.

It was the Anti-Torture Committee from the Council of Europe that visited La Moye Prison a few years ago and issued a report that required Jersey to improve some conditions and practices which potentially caused “human rights violations.”

It’s easy to guess what the Daily Mail might have written about that sort of interference because the violation of rights is just an everyday journalistic tool at the Mail and other “National rags” – as the Press Inquiry and current court cases have revealed…

But unlike the Convention against Torture - Jersey has not even signed up for the European Social Charter – so the latest criticisms against the UK do not apply here.

This does not mean that similar conclusions might not be made about Jersey’s social policies – it’s just that, yet again - nobody is submitting them for independent examination and scrutiny in accordance with international standards.

Of course, there is no “dole” in Jersey just a weird system of “Income support” – but so far as the UK is concerned the Council report said that “Jobseekers Allowance” (for example) should be increased by £71 per week and many other allowances and pensions should be increased by similar amounts too because they are “manifestly inadequate.”

So how would Jersey fare if examined by these “Eurocrats”?

The UK has signed-up for 60 of the 72 articles of the Social Charter and submitted 32 Reports to the relevant Council of Europe Committee since 1962.

These deal with such matters as;

Children and family protection,
The protection of children from sexual exploitation,
Employment and labour rights,
Trades Unions,
Education, training and equal opportunities,
Health and Social Security provision
Migrant workers,

The whole document is hugely important but like the Convention on Human Rights, is not popular with the current UK Government or other regressive institutions such as the Daily Mail. They would like to scrap any legislation or obligations that interfere with the capitalist priority of making profit.

In Jersey, as already indicated, the European Social Charter has not even been ratified.
It is unlikely that CM Gorst has ever heard of its existence and the Jersey Scrutiny system is incapable of submitting social policies to critical examination.

The Jersey Scrutiny System simply does not have an international obligations dimension – nobody routinely asks if human rights are being complied with!

How might such a complacent attitude be challenged?  Shall any of the candidates in the current St Helier By-Elections or in the whole Island elections in the autumn be proposing to change things for the better?