In English : Council tax and discrimination against mobile dwellers (new page 17/01/06)

Can anything be taxed without being recognised?

Although not recognised officially as housing, caravans will now be paying council tax.

The 2006 finance law introduces council tax for people living in mobile, land-based dwellings, mainly caravans and camping-cars. This aggravates existing discrimination and contradicts recent presidential and government statements.

The situation is pure dynamite. Is this the spark which will light the fuse?

All depends on what will happen during the next few months.

In fact, the law will only be applied as from the 1st of January 2007, which leaves ample time for dialogue.

Large scale dialogue between all concerned (government, the family allowance office, gypsies…) is essential to obtain an agreement satisfying all parties before publication of the statutory order. (The statutory order, which gives more detailed instructions on how the law is to be applied, is an essential part of law enactment in France. Some laws are never applied in spite of their having been voted because their statutory order was never published.)

It’s not just a matter of changing the rate or the base. Above all it’s a matter of recognising that mobile dwellings are as legitimate as any other type of housing.

People living in mobile dwellings are citizens of the French republic like everybody else, and they are willing to carry out the same duties as long as the country gives them the same rights, the same help as everybody else, and respects their way of life.

France is short of 1 000 000 houses!

So we should be glad some people prefer – or accept – solutions that many of their fellow citizens would be unlikely to tolerate.
Many choose a freer and easier way of life, closer to nature, more nomadic for some, others have to move about for their jobs. But many are driven to this way of life by need.

The poor pay 4 or 5 times as much as the rich

It is important to remember that, even if a mobile dwelling is easier to get into (less questions asked and fewer securities demanded), it’s still a lot more expensive in the long run.

A family paying 300 euros a month in permanent housing can get as much as about 250 euros in welfare allowance. As of now, this allowance would be refused if the same house were on wheels. For a 25 m2 dwelling, and assuming an average council tax of about a month’s rent, a permanent dwelling would be paying about 300 euros against 625 euros for a mobile dwelling.

The yearly cost of housing would be 900 euros for the family apparently respectable enough to get “normal” housing and 4 225 euros for the family in a mobile dwelling.

A tax to finish off outcasts

All this will finish off families and individuals already in very precarious situations. Evicted because unable to pay their rent they’ll finish on the street, society’s ultimate rubbish dump.

We demand recognition of mobile dwellings, recognition which would give right to the same welfare allowances as everybody else, non discrimination for jobs, access to low interest loans to buy one’s main home, being taken into account in the same way as other people when it comes to sending children to school or their care or custody, the same rights to register on electoral roll, etc.

With more than 86 000 homeless (according to the Institut National des Statistiques……) and more than 3 million inadequate dwellings (according to the Fondation Abbé Pierre) mobile dwellings are an immediate answer which allows many to keep not only a roof and their dignity, but also their health and vital social and economic ties. In other cases, persons who choose to live in mobile dwellings leave room in permanent housing to their fellow citizens.

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France is missing 1 000 000 houses

Were there not hundreds of thousands living in mobile dwellings, be it or not their free choice, there would be a family in every porch-way and every gateway and Medecins du Monde tents on every sidewalk.

Evicted from our towns, women and men of all walks of life, victims of all-embracing precariousness, guilty of earning less than three times a rent bloated by an ever-increasing demand of real estate, go underground.

HALEM, the association of temporary or mobile housing dwellers, includes working poor, people living on welfare grants or small pensions, people whose jobs keep them on the move and others who’ve chosen this way of life. New to this way of life, they don’t event have the cultural heritage and the group spirit which have helped gypsies survive in spite of age-old discrimination.