Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Social or un-social housing. Who cares?

We are all entitled to decent housing. It’s supposedly one of the reasons we fight wars - homes fit for heroes and all that stuff.

Yet here in Jersey, amidst all the wealth, there are thousands of people who have to tolerate sub-standard housing conditions. They are not all temporary farm workers nor the ten thousand adults without housing “quals”

The interview below is with a Jersey born young woman who describes the conditions that have to be endured on one States housing estate by her and her family.

Why in 2010 does anybody have to put up with such treatment?
How many other States tenants are in similar circumstances?

With the appointment of Deputy Sean Power as the new Housing Minister can we expect a positive plan to end such conditions for all tenants?



Submitted by Thomas Wellard.

34 comments:

TonyTheProf said...

An extremely good interview. I hope some of the States members view it.

voiceforchildren said...

Tony.

Thanks for your support on this interview both on here and your own Blog, i'm sure Thomas Wellard will be thanking you too.

In respect of hoping some of the States members view it. Yes many of the States Members will view it, I suppose the question has to be will they do anything about this poor lady's suffering?

We shall wait and see...............

Anonymous said...

Which estate is it?

voiceforchildren said...

Up-date.

I was contacted this morning by Deputy Trevor "Big Trev" Pitman after he had watched the video. He asked me where the lady lived, which is in his district, he then asked for her contact details. Within minutes he had contacted the lady and is meeting her at lunchtime today.

The lady appears very pleased that somebody might be listening to her.......finally!

Fair play to Big Trev and dare I say it? "Citizens Media"

mac said...

Good on Big Trev,

Housing will not deal with anti social behaviour and often when someone does make a complaint it leads to more problems because the people that are the problem are given the name of the person that complained, so can victimise them even more.

voiceforchildren said...

Big Trev.

Will you be able to keep us posted on here how this all pans out? From start to finish?

GeeGee said...

It is a disgrace that people are still subjected to living in these sort of conditions in 2010 in Jersey.

Whilst accepting damp is a problem in the Island surely Housing should be/have been addressing this issue when it was first raised, especially as there are children involved.

I suffer respiratory problems and have been told by the Hospital that the atmosphere in the Island is a large contributory factor let alone dampness and mould.

We suffer from a little mildew in the winter months, but have a very, very good landlord. This poor lady lives in appalling conditions and also appears to have a very bad landlord in the States Housing Department.

I hope Trevor can help her in her situation.

Ian Evans said...

Good to see Trevor has jumped straight in there.

Proper States member, well done.

Anonymous said...

This is clearly not "damp" it is humidity due to lack of ventilation. Nobody opens windows these days - buy a dehumidifier!!

States properties are of modern contruction with cavity walls

Anonymous said...

Just for the record it was Senatorial candidate Nick Le Cornu who met the brave tenant and her family initially when knocking on doors. With her permission, he contacted The Voice. Hopefully a positive action will result.

If so, it just goes to show how blogging can be a useful facility for doing good. It is essential for bloggers and their supporters to work together - networking as we used to say - in order to be really effective. That is the real power base of the net.
So thanks for the kind words from any others - bloggers et all - and keep spreading the message.

It would be very constructive to engage in dialogue with blogs in the other small islands around the globe too. We share many similar problems.
Tom

Deputy Montfort Tadier said...

Well done Team Voice in what is a fine bit of 'investigative journalism'. Indeed, I had started to forget the meaning of the term, so used have I become to the cosy established Jersey outlets, that I had forgotten it existed in the island. Thank goodness for Citizens' Media!

There is no doubt that Deputy Sean Power has his work cut out now that he is (officially) at the helm of Housing. Whilst we may be on different political wings, I certainly have to admire his energy and hard work. All States Members are hopeful that he will be able to begin to solve the many issues facing the department. So firstly to Sean, who I know reads this blog two words: Congratulations and Godspeed.

I know he will be assisted well by Constable Graeme Butcher of St John, who amongst all of the Constables was the best one for the job. If any of them are, he is the true maverick and his own man. The reason I say this is that on out time together on scrutiny, we got on well and I remember one comment he told me (regarding buying property): 'Do people want a cash cow?' Spot on. He has crystalised the problem very well and demonstrated that the issue that needs to be overcome in Jersey if we are to truly deliver affordable housing is that of 'speculation'.

Though he is not the only one to talk of it, Stuart Syvret, when he spoke at the Grouville hustings recently, quite rightly pointed out that the second largest industry in Jersey - after finance - was the accommodation industry, or the Rentier Class as others might say. It is they, in part, who are responsible for keeping house prices high, indeed ever higher, and it is this element which must be addressed if our commitment to affordable housing is to move from from mere lip-service to concerted action.

Getting back to this woman's case. It is, significant, as you have pointed out that this instance is not to do with a non-quals property, which one might expect to more likely be sub-standard. This was a social housing unit. One of the main problems facing housing at present is the maintenance of their properties. I have myself witnessed this problem earlier today with the sheltered accommodation at Don Farm.

Current States policy, up until now, has been to sell of property in order to pay for the maintenance. Anyone who has played monopoly recently will realise that this is a slippery slope to take). Thankfully, the new Minister has indicated he wants to put a stop to this practice. We trust that he will both be able to maintain the quantity and the quality of housing stock. To do this he has said he will fight for profits from housing to be kept with housing. Sounds very sensible, although I don't think the Treasury Minister will share his enthusiasm!

More generally, there needs to be decisive action taken to (i) make sure that sub-standard rental properties are weeded out and (ii) that tenants' rights are upheld. I am talking, now, about the private sector, for both quals and non-quals. Though there are inspections that take place of lodging houses, there are no standards, and certainly no checks in place, to verify the quality of accommodation for those who let out rooms. Nor are there any checks for rental accommodations in the qualified sector.

What would help address this would be a registration scheme for all landlords. This is not a new idea, although it is one that is being promoted by at least one candidate in the current by-election. The idea would be for a sliding scale fee for each landlord dependent on the size/rent of the unit, which would cover the cost of a yearly inspection (not designed to raise revenue for Ozouf's black hole).

Deputy Montfort Tadier said...

Another area which must be addressed is the extension of deposit protection for non-qualified renters. Earlier in the year (or was it last year?!), the States agreed legislation to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords, who kept deposits for fictional/minor damage, and there was very little recourse for the tenant. This legislation (still in development) is to be welcomed, however, it does not extend to the unqualified sector. Though more tricky to implement, it must be done, as these are the individuals even more susceptible to unscrupulous landlords.

So, once again - Tom G and Rasberry R - well done. And good on you Big Trev. A perfect example of responsive government, and investigative (unaccredited) journalism holding the Government to account.

Jersey Born Sufferer said...

I would like to say a MASSIVE THANK YOU to the voice and Nick Le Cornu (for putting me in touch with them) for all their help and support in bringing our situation to public attention. You guys are doing an amazing job of portraying TRUE public opinion, unlike perhaps, other media sources in the island! I have been battling with housing for 16months now, continually letter writing, emailing and phoning, but my voice alone was not being heard!!
The morning after the interview went out I recieved a call from Deputy Trevor Pitman, and I really cannot thank him enough. He has visited us at home, taken the time to listen. And has on our behalf has made contact with the new Housing Minister, Sean Power, to arrange for us to meet with him. We now feel we are getting somewhere for the first time in over year. Big Trev, you are brilliant, an asset to St. Helier and our Island.

I would also like to reply to the anonymous comment, saying "This is clearly not 'damp' and is humidity etc." I can assure you I am well aware of the difference between the two and can assure you that the black fur growing up three of our bedroom walls, from floor to waist height, is not humidity, especially as all the windows in my property are opened daily. And after 9months of fighting back the black with bleach and the like, housing did send a contractor out to address the issue. I was told at the time by the contractor that what they were doing was not a long term solution, that it would keep it at bay for up to a year. And that there are many properties on our estate with the same damp problems!!!
Although, for us the damp was just the icing on a triple layed gateaux of problems!!

Anonymous said...

Well done to all of the above for their response to this lady. The good side of politics. Which only makes another example of the bad side all the worse!

Far from the cak he is spouting at the hustings about being a champion of social justice - and you would assume, equality for all - Nick Le Cornu is now showing his true colours on anothr blog site, is this Jersey?

According to Mr Le Cornu Ted Vibert is a homosexual. 'The only gay in the village'. I can't see this somehow as Ted and his wife are still well remembered by more aware political people. But that is not really the point.

Le Cornu is clearly using the term in a derogatory, insulting way inferring that to be gay is somehow second rate and freakish. Perhaps he should call himself Sick Nick Le Cornu. Disgusting. I just hope Team Voice have the moral guts to publish this because such behaviour is wrong. Thanks.

mac said...

I don't think Nick Le Cornu is referring to Ted Viberts sexuality, I read it as in the little Britain sketch that despite it being obvious that there's lots of people doing things to help in the Island, Ted believes he is the only one.

Andy said...

Well done . very enlightening video .
I admire the lady for speaking out and wish her well . Have they (states) not got the brains to realise it will cost less to address the damp problem now than it it will to treat the subseqeunt health problems in the future .

Anonymous said...

I don't think this video was well advised. If the lady had problems with her neighbours before this she sure will have more now. She was also prompted with by the questions to answer them in the way the interviewer wanted. Bad decision in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mac.

I can't agree with your take on the Nick Le Cornu attack on Ted Vibert. Attacks are fine depending what form they take and old Ted is clearly happy to slug it out with anyone, but this is bang out of order. Bit like the awful piece of bullying a member of the public at the hustings last night where he showed what a horrible piece of work he is. Shocking. Just shows Le Cornu's ignorance. The other point is that this line on thinking you're the only one doing anything/caring/competent seems to really sum up Stuart Syvret right now.That's my view anyway.

Anonymous said...

Actually the commettee has only just started on the estate, a news letter was posted through everyones door & asked for their views. It was open to everyone to join & I don't remember seeing this lady there! We have only been up & running for about a month. Thanks.

Deputy Trevor Pitman said...

Hello Voiceforchildren

Apologies for the delay in responding to your question above. I obviously do not to want to go in to too much detail as that is for Bobby to decide on. However, I can say the following.

I did indeed meet with Bobby and her husband the day of making contact. Having discussed all possible ways forward I was able to make contact with our new Housing Minister, Deputy Sean Power and arrange a meeting with him for Bobby.

The result of this was that I returned early the next morning with both Sean and one of his officers. Following a very good meeting where we discussed both short term and a longer term plan which we all seemed to agree on Sean promised to get back in touch with Bobby and myself the next day, once he had had time to further consider matters and the possibilities available.

I don't want to say too much here because, as I say, any detail is entirely up to Bobby to comment to the degree that she wishes. But in short it is very good news. A solution has been found and should now be actioned very quickly for Bobby and her family. The wider issue of the anti-social behaviour problem is also going to be confronted I am assured by Sean.

Really don't want to say more than that until Bobby has been in touch with you. Sufficent to say that I am pleased that I was able to help, thank you for voiceforchildren's part in bringing this to my attention, and respect to our new Housing Minister, Sean for his very prompt response to my request that he tackle this problem.

Most of all I would simply add that I am very pleased for Bobby and her family who have clearly worked very hard, not just at making a nice home but in trying to be good tenants and neighbours. Good people like this just don't deserve to suffer as they have.

Again, well done to Team Voice for raising this. Thanks to Bobby too for her kind words. I can't always help but I do always try my best.

Regards.

Trevor

Anonymous said...

Well done Team Voice. This woman is truly to be praised for her forthrightness and courage to speak out on social issues.

I met her whilst out campaigning and knew she would be an excellent subject for Team Voice. I asked and she agreed. My campaigning has been done the hard way by knocking on as many doors as possible - just as one would do in any Deputy election. This is an invaluable way to find out what is happening in society. Too many careerist politicians prefer to concern themselves with the ivory tower of the States Building and its many petty squabbles. I asked this woman if she had approached her local Deputys (she has several) to resolve the issues and she just smiled. I took that to mean “they were unlikely to deliver”. I would recommend Deputys to take a little time to wander around their districts and speak to the people about the issues of concern.

I see it as important to bring up these socio economic issues. Why on earth do the BBC Radio Jersey, Channel TV and the JEP not do so? There are hundreds of excellent stories to be told just by talking to ordinary people and listening to their extraordinary lives. The reason is that they do not want to raise fundamental issues about poverty, inequality and injustice in Jersey – a bit too embarrassing to their wealthy sponsors and owners. Let us hope the new Housing Minister seeks to address the many complaints I have encountered and not simply embark on a bargain basement sale of state property to wealthy developers.

The anonymous Trolls that are making personal comments about me receive nothing but my contempt. Clearly they realise they do not have the qualities necessary to challenge my politics with reasoned argument and resort to personal denigration. Prejudice is often inarticulate. What I do is as much for them as the sane. It is important to defend the high quality public services of which they clearly are in need.

Now, where is my fly swat?.

Regards,

Nick Le Cornu

Ps I have found a few more interesting people on my way around the campaign trail and hopefully Team Voice will be following up the leads. Sadly, a number of elderly voters that gave me a sympathetic hearing in 2008 have since passed away.

Pps Other tenants on the estate where the lady lives, tells me that a residents committee has been established, however is acts like a group of friends, organising a BBQ and alcohol,not taking up anti social behaviour issues and child protection. Impressions are important if credibility is sought.

voiceforchildren said...

Nick.

Thank you for bringing this real life story to us and we are glad that Citizens Media have been able to play a role. Yes we would be more than happy to cover some more real life stories for you.

I have received a comment from Deputy Trevor "Big Trev" Pitman, but for some reason it won't publish but I'll keep trying to get it published.

It does appear something very positive has come out of all this, and Deputy Sean Power has wasted no time at all in being hands on with his Department. I'll not say too much right now and wait to see if I can get Big Trev's comment published.

Credit to you Nick, credit to Big Trev and Deputy Sean Power, and dare I be so bold? credit to Team Voice. More to follow.......

Anonymous said...

I am willing to reply to this specific case, if Mrs H agrees, on VFJ with me on a camera. Sean

voiceforchildren said...

Sean.

I would be eager to interview you concerning this case and indeed was going to phone you in the morning to ask just that. You have never refused us an interview in fact you have been very approachable and given us an interview in the past.

Unfortunately I do not have the lady's contact details but will get them tomorrow and ask that she agrees to me publishing an interview with you.

Thank you for the work you have done on this case and thank you for engaging with the online community. Will call you tomorrow.

Deputy Trevor Pitman said...

Hello Voiceforchildren

Reply part One!

Apologies for the delay in responding to your question above. I hope your readers will understand that I obviously do not to want to go in to too much detail as that is for the resident to decide on to the extent that she feels happy with. However, I can say the following.

I did indeed meet with the lady and her husband the day of making contact. Having discussed all possible ways forward I was then able to make contact with our new Housing Minister, Deputy Sean Power and arrange a meeting with him for the resident, a meeting that I also agreed I would attend to support her.

The result of this was that I returned early the next morning with both Sean and one of his officers. Following a very good meeting where we discussed both short term and a longer term plan which we all seemed to agree on Sean promised to get back in touch with us the next day, once he had had time to further consider matters and the possibilities available.

I repeat, I don't want to say too much here because, as I say, any detail is entirely up to the lady herself to comment upon to the degree that she wishes. But in short it is very good news.

A solution has been found and should now be actioned very quickly for the resident and her family. It would be all too easy for me to say more but I think this would be entirely wrong. Suffice to say that I am told by the department that the resident is very happy indeed. I will, of course, be following that up this coming week to see if there is any further support I can give.

See part Two below for details...

Trevor

Deputy Trevor Pitman said...

Part two continued from above due to text length...

The wider issue of the anti-social behaviour problem is also now going to be confronted I am assured by Sean. On the larger scale, such as the damp issues and necessary refurbishment, this will obviously take some time and I will leave Deputy Power to make any comment to the blog on this.

No-one should be asked to live in States accomodation that is substandard or that has a negative impact on people's health. The truth is that some of the problems in our housing just should not have been allowed to develop - and would not have with adequate care and concern from the very top. Hopefully this will all gradually change under Sean and we must give him the chance to begin this.

Nevertheless, following our meeting I am told that more immediately this will include work on improving lighting around the estate, better co-ordination with policing, and ensuring everyone is made fully aware of their communal responsibilities. Making decent people's existence miserable just isn't acceptable and as a Deputy I expect all States departments to take any such complaints very seriously.

Like my JDA colleagues I have had a number of such complaints in the past and would urge any constituent suffering such problems, and feeling that they are not being taken as seriously as they should to get in touch. This is part of the reason that we are here.

Really Voiceforchildren I don't want to say any more than that until the resident has been in touch with you. Sufficent to say that I am very pleased that I was able to help, and thank you for voiceforchildren's part in bringing this to my attention - your action is a credit to Citizens Media. I would give my thanks and respect to our new Housing Minister, Sean Power, for his very prompt response to my request that he tackle this problem.

Whatever our political differences I can say that Sean has always been very helpful when I have had to contact him on behalf of constituents so I am not at all surprised that he responded so promptly on this ocassion. Hopefully under him Housing will begin to become what it should be.

A different issue, but I have already made my feelings known as to how we need to regulate Housing Trusts as this is another issue that needs urgent attention and probably legislation. Perhaps I can do a post for you on this at a later date?

Most of all Team Voice I would simply add that I am very , very pleased for the resident and her family who have clearly worked very hard, not just at making a nice home but in trying to be good tenants and neighbours. Good people like this just don't deserve to suffer as they have.

Again, well done for raising this. Thanks to the resident too for her kind words about me above. I can't always help but I do always try my best. The JDA Deputies have such large constituent portfolios because people know that we do roll up our sleeves and do the best we can for people. This is a big part of what being a Deputy is. As I say, there is no guarantee that we can always get things put right but we do always do our utmost.

Kind regards.

Trevor

--

Anonymous said...

AMAZING! People have been on this estate (la collette flats) complaining for years, Needing to move and have put up with far more than this tenant!This tenant has only been here 16 months! WHAT TYPE OF WITING LIST IS THIS? Is it last in first served!

Jersey Born Sufferer said...

There are few comments I feel I should reply to. Firstly, an anonymous comment said they felt the interview was not well advised, and that, 'if the lady had problems with neighbours before this she sure will have more now!' I would like to say that it is exactly that kind of attitude that allows anti-social behaviour to go on, and accelerate out of all control! Decent people all over our island suffer in silence because of fears of what might happen if they come forward and complain, many of my neighbours have been or are in this situation. I decided that enough was enough and hope that by speaking out it will encourage others to do the same. If Housing, landlords, police and the like are not made aware of anti-social behaviour or individuals, then how can it be addressed and anything be changed. It has been an awful experience for us living here and yes, I have been targeted by certain neighbours because I have called the police and complained to the housing dept. But, why should their behaviour go unchecked? Why should they not be warned that there are consequences for anti-social behaviour? Why should my family suffer because of these people? I'm glad I spoke out as it has paid off for us in the end.

Secondly there was another anonymous comment left by what I believe to a association member from the tenants association on my estate. Yes letters were sent to us asking to attend a meeting before the association was formed and as I said to the voice and housing at the time it was not something we wanted to be involed in as we did not intend on or want to continue living here , things for us had gone too far and we had reached our end with it, association or no association!
I did not at all intend to offend any of those who are involed in the association. I merely commented what we as tenants know so far, about our association. And that is that they will be organising barbarques outside on the estate for all tenants to attend at a cost of £2.50 per person. Although we have not yet been notified of any such events neither have we been notified of any changes or planned changes the association intend to make to our estate. So to us, so far it has seemed like more of a social group. Perhaps more regular updates to notify tenants of the associations intentions would be appropriate. Apologies to anyone who took any offense in what I said.

Anonymous said...

Now this tenant has been moved! What will happen to the tenants that were on the list before these tenants? ( SOME HAVE BEEN ON IT FOR YEARS!) Also what happened to the agreement of living in a place for 2 years before you can even think of moving out or even getting on the list?

Anonymous said...

obviously some comments have not been posted!
why is this called voice for jersey when you cannot print what people
really want to say, I would call it praise the state members!

Anonymous said...

only 16 months and they are moving already unbelieveable some people have lived in places for years and been on the list for years. I wonder where half of those people are!! probably still in the house or flat they were in for years!!!

Anonymous said...

Lets hope Sean Power helps other people now he has taken over maybe he could start with the people he saw before he was made Housing Minister and did nothing about. lets hope he starts the way he intends to carry on and its not just a front show.

Anonymous said...

Am really happy for you - well done for speaking out and it shows it has paid off - I hope things start to change for other tenants in similar situations

Anonymous said...

I have to say in response to Monfert Tadier's comments - being able to buy a housing property has been a great opportunity for my family and our only opportunity to buy a property. I am grateful for this opportunity