01/25/2011

No villas around the airport, please!

Propositions to change zones of villas around the airport into mixed housing and light industry could have some political undertones. Will the politicians making the decisions defend properly the electorate?


In reading, in my English Sunday newspaper, that

“… and Swiss cantons such as Zug and Geneva have all stepped up efforts to woo executives [from the City of London] and the firms they run”

my mind went back to the article in the Tribune de Geneva on 21 December, entitled

L’Etat s’attaque à la zone villas près de l’aéroport

and I realised how this can be all about politics, not people.

To entice financial enterprises like hedge funds (Brevan Howard, for example) to move here, Geneva needs to offer places for them and their employees to live and to work: both of these are in short supply in. In addition, good access to transportation, particularly air travel, is needed to allow clients and fund managers to meet, home or away.

Now think how the plan to replace the villas just south of the airport with a mixed zone of housing and light industry (no big nasty unsightly factories) is ideal to meet these requirements, and delight the state councillors responsible for Buildings (Mark Muller, Liberal) and for the Economy (Pierre-François Unger, PDC), who each obtain glory and more money for their departments. The airport management, though no doubt saying that this is nothing to do with them, will also quietly rejoice.

Probably the political approach will be to emphasize the housing aspect. However, as was pointed out by the administrative councillor of my commune (Versoix), Patrick Malek-Asghar, the way in which communal taxes are apportioned between housing and work places actually makes it more beneficial financially for communes to acquire workplaces: they bring in more income (in this case, to Meyrin).

So how do you find an excuse to throw out the families living in over 100 villas in this area, build some accommodation and some industrial buildings and increase your commune’s tax income? Simple: you say that their area is too noisy to live in (based upon noise contour lines calculated by a computer program). Whether or not these contours are accurate, or whether the people say that they are not worried by the noise, would seem to count for nothing.

No doubt many people will see this as good for business, and therefore good for the Geneva economy. Leaving aside the moral questions of whether hedge funds and the like actually contribute to the well-being of humanity or are simply financial bloodsuckers, one can still be worried by the way that the airport is more and more imposing itself upon the areas surrounding it.

Another factor is also that this is unlikely to improve the housing situation for the average Swiss person. The incoming affluent employees will happily pay high rents, whilst the top people will use their annual bonuses to buy luxury accommodation all over Geneva canton. The result could be what the canton of Zug was reported to be worried about, namely an exodus of the middle classes (in our case, to France).

This worry was also highlighted in an article in the Tribune de Genève on Monday, 17 January, which stated that one Geneva villa in every two is bought by a foreigner, and highlighted the fact that the richer ones, benefiting from a negotiated tax deal, can easily afford inflated prices.

Will the elected politicians choose to defend the electorate or to get more money for their commune or the canton?

23:38 Posted in Potpourri | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: geneva, meyrin, zones, housing, foreigners | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

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