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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: https://www.humanite.fr/paris-en-ma...

Paris. En marche! To sell off social housing


Translated Sunday 27 May 2018, by Cherrelle Dowdie

Pro-Macron Parisian councillors defend a proposal this Friday (4th May 2018) aiming to let go of 1% of social housing annually. This initiative is condemned by the council majority.

Down with Parisian social housing! Several pro-Macron Parisian councillors, ex-Les Républicains (former Republican Party members) and ex-Parti Socialiste (former Socialist party members) are going to defend a worrying proposal to the Council of Paris this Friday. What is their idea? To adopt a “five-year plan” to facilitate the sale each year of 1% of social housing from the Capital, which is around 2,000 homes.

This is a proposition which heralds one of the objectives of la loi Elan, évolution du logement et aménagement numérique (Elan law on housing development and digitalisation). Expected at the National Assembly at the beginning of June, this legislation proposes to make the sale of social housing easier. In turn, this will raise the finances to erect new buildings and make up for state cutbacks. Officially, this proposal also targets the middle class who are increasingly excluded from buying their own homes in the Capital, where the cost of purchase has exceeded 9,000 euros per square metre.

Jean-Claude Driant, teacher at l’École d’Urbanisme de Paris (Paris School of Urban Planning) commented “The problem is that, taking into account the difficulties of building where property is rare and expensive, saying that one social housing is sold to generate funds to build three in its place just doesn’t work.”

This then means that confronted with the impossibility of building within Paris itself, the proposal of pro-Macron councillors will come down to reducing the amount of social housing in the capital to build some in the suburbs nearby. To clarify the position, it is to uproot the poor to beyond the Parisian ring road. This is crucial, as there is no guarantee that current tenants, many of whom do not have the means to buy, will benefit from these sales.

Ian Brossat, deputy mayor in charge of housing from the Parti Communiste Français (French Communist Party), explained that “Either... property is sold at reduced cost, which creates a problem of using public funds, and entails a risk that buyers will have trouble with maintenance work and end up in a deteriorated joint ownership property; Or... property is sold at market cost and there is a risk that these homes will be subject to speculation in the housing market and be sold at a premium ”

Heading towards a concentration of social housing in the north and east of the Capital

The Macron-esque proposal goes against the policy of the Town Hall of Paris. According to Apur, Atelier Parisien d’Urbanisme (Parisian Urban Planning department), with 90,886 units of social housing financed between 2001 and 2016, social housing now provides homes for 470,000 people and represents 20% of homes in the Capital compared with 13% in 2001. The objective is to reach 25% between now and 2025 to meet the demand of 200,000 people currently waiting.

The objective of mixité sociale (social mixing) promoted by the Parisian council is also overturned by this proposal. By excluding priority areas from their sales programs, the councillors of the presidential majority actually threaten hard-won social housing set up in desirable neighbourhoods and reinforce the concentration of popular housing in the north and east of the capital.

Ian Brossat stated, “In a town like Paris, as it is in all capitals, where two thirds of the population are tenants, the middle-class suffer first and foremost from unaffordable rents in the private sector. The best way to help them would be to take measures like capping rents to end the price rise”.

Confronted with the explosion of the cost of rent in the private market, (29 euros per square metre and over 40 euros for small surface areas, on average) and mandatory conditions (income three times the cost of the rent) to obtain a tenancy agreement, social housing is increasingly a necessary passage, including for the Parisian middle class, 24% of whom have chosen to rent in this way. This is one aspect of the problem which has been neglected by pro-Macron councillors, apparently more motivated by an ideological position.

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