Friday, 10 September 2010
AFFORDABLE JERSEY HOUSING IN THE DRAFT ISLAND PLAN
Access to adequate and secure housing is a basic human right.
The UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing has defined this human right as:
“The right of every woman, man, youth and child to gain and sustain a safe and secure home and community in which to live in peace and dignity.”
This applies to Jersey just as much as any other place.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948 states under Article 25(1) that;
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing……”
The right is supported by many other international conventions and agreements – some of which have been ratified for Jersey – such as the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) under Article 27 (Para 3).
According to General Comment No 4 adopted by the ICESCR Committee in 1991, housing to be adequate, must provide more than just four walls and a roof but, at a minimum include; legal security of tenure, availability of services, affordability, accessibility, habitability, location and cultural adequacy.
Older people, those with disabilities, minorities and migrant workers are among particular categories recognised and protected under specific international obligations.
According to Agenda 21 from the Rio Conference and Earth Summit of 1992, Jersey was supposed to draw up a plan to provide that ALL inhabitants of the Island should be adequately housed. No such plan has been produced.
Jersey has had a Housing Law since 1949.
Without a proven “housing shortage” there is no purpose for that law because its primary purpose is to “prevent further aggravation of the housing shortage.” It follows, therefore, that there is an inherent reluctance to end that housing shortage because that will remove the pretext for discriminatory “anti-immigration” laws and policies which are built around the Housing Law and Regulations. No shortage = no discriminatory laws.
The extent of the “housing shortage” has never been precisely defined.
Successive Island Plans have never attempted to end the “housing shortage” or to determine how many people live in inadequate housing.
There has never been a plan to house all those residents (in excess of 10,000 working adults) who do not have “housing qualifications.”
The Planning Department has, since the 1960s, sought to present a sham, distorted and professionally inadequate succession of Island Plans before the public.
The resident Island population was about 60,000 in 1960 and is now in excess of 92,000 but whether the “housing shortage” is diminishing or expanding is not clearly explained.
No planned date is offered when Jersey will cease to have a “housing shortage” even on current population statistics. Yet, the official economic plan for Jersey is based upon a population expansion to 100,000.
Such bland figures say nothing about specific housing type needs – such as accessible homes for people with disabilities or for resident carers.
The “housing shortage” is the basis of a substantial business for those who own properties for rent, lodging houses, rooms to let etc and accommodation tied to employment.
Jersey has a significant, permanent under-class of inadequately housed residents – contrary to international human-rights obligations or the Mission Statement of the States of Jersey.
Discrimination and unfairness under the pretext of a “housing shortage” is not just manifested under the Housing law qualifications system. The obsession with brown cows in green fields is another form of prejudice exploited by Jersey’s planners and others. Although agriculture and horticulture are ever diminishing activities and almost insignificant in Island economic terms, they enjoy an absurd preference so far as the use of land is concerned.
In spite of providing some of the worst housing accommodation in Jersey for their own employees (Portakabins and suchlike), the agriculturalists of Jersey have enjoyed an absurd planning priority for decades to develop their lands, to construct enormous sheds or glasshouses and receive all manner of subsidies. Other, more beneficial businesses, trades or activities receive no such help or little encouragement and the agriculturalists, by their animals and crops, pollute the land and water supplies too with impunity. They are also, likely as not, to receive planning permissions to redevelop old glass for houses or to convert empty sheds into data stores or mini-industrial centres.
The only desirable policies under the former Housing Law and Regulations were attempts to control the price of all housing transactions and to fix that of land for housing to £1400 per vergee.
These policies were abandoned in the 1970s because the more privileged in Jersey society (the property owning class) objected to the constraints upon their freedom to make money – although others could not afford or were not allowed to buy (sometimes even to rent), property at all.
Senator R. Shenton entered politics and the States, because he was unable to sell his house at St. Aubin for the price that he wanted and a potential buyer had agreed to pay.
Thus, “affordability” has been an aspect of Jersey’s so called “housing shortage” for a very long time. The former price control policies were intended to keep housing affordable.
This is not a problem that has suddenly arisen due to the current banking difficulties, or availability of loans, as our planners now falsely claim.
The “Zenzele” community project in 1980s Bristol afforded an opportunity for a group of unemployed persons to self-build for themselves a small block of flats. Many similar projects have been completed at various UK locations whereby people in receipt of social security benefits have been enabled, not only to become housed in their own homes but also to be enabled to find long term employment.
“Affordability” in the UN sense is not to be confused with the interpretation promoted by Jersey planners and the money-lenders.
As the self-builders have demonstrated, “affordable” has much more to do with enabling practical, socially desirable things to happen rather than helping bankers, financiers and property developers to achieve profits.
As “Zenzele” shows, even the poorest in society can afford to own decent homes, given appropriate support.
More generally, there is no excuse for any Jersey residents being denied the opportunity to occupy adequate housing - in accordance with international obligations.
According to Para 2.5 of the 2002 Island Plan and 1.3 of 2009 Draft Island Plan;
“The Island is subject to more than 350 international treaties, conventions and protocols, which carry legal and moral commitments as well as rights and obligations under international law….There, are other agreements covering social and economic matters, such as Human Rights law, which will impact indirectly on the planning system and thus need to be taken into account.”
Hardly any further information about these 350 treaties etc is offered in the current Plan beyond a few safe references to environmental issues under Ramsar conventions.
There is no attempt to list the 350 treaties or even to outline how the most important ones might have been considered in drawing up the Draft Plan.
There is no attempt at a “rights” or “compliance” audit to confirm that the Island is within existing international obligations. Nor is any guidance offered on likely international standards that might apply, during the future lifetime of the Plan.
Without such information, the Draft Plan must be viewed as substantially defective and not ready to be seriously considered.
The Island Plan of 2002 was similarly flawed yet was, nevertheless, agreed by the States.
It must not happen again.
Submitted by Thomas Wellard.