After an unpredictable cut in housing allowances in France in 2017 amounting up to 2 billion Euros, the 79th national congress of French social housing providers took place in Marseille in the second week of October aiming to find answers on how the future will look like for new construction, tenants, investments but also for the overall sustainability of the sector.
By Virginie Toussain, Union Sociale pour l' Habitat (USH) EU Delegation Legal Manager
In the context of growing housing prices and increasing social housing demand, as everywhere in Europe, the social housing sector is facing a drastic reduction in public funding and an organisational reform aiming to merge the social housing providers with an housing stock below 12,000 units.
As a consequence of the major cut in housing allowances, the French social landlords have to compensate this loss for tenants in decreasing the rent, while different forms of financial support or programs supported by the state are stopped. The impact of these political choices is already clearly measurable on new social housing production which is namely 15% lower.
The national congress titled "Tomorrow, with the Hlm" enabled the various stakeholders to exchange around the multiple effects of this reform on the level of investment, on the services to tenants and the overall sustainability of the French social hosuing system, but also to raise awareness on the core role of social housing for the economy, territorial cohesion and inclusion.
Different plennary sessions discussed the ways to produce less expensive dwellings, how to deal with the rent when it is regulated by law, to produce good quality homes and services at low price while at the same time safeguarding the financial sustainability of social housing providers ; the greater role of social housing in France ; the place of tenants in this new environment, the gender balance, and also the values-the missions of the sector. The role of the European stage was also underlined in a specific roundtable on investments and the different trends on housing markets in Europe presented by Housing Europe President, Cédric Van Styvendael.
The Housing Secretary was part of the final discussions to try to re-establish a better relationship with the social housing sector, still under the shock of the new orientations, and made some concrete proposals to help social landlords overcome the situation.
The regional social housing federations adopted a resolution, focused on the furture, to urge local authorities authorities to change their mindset, i.e. to prefer consulting all stakeholders rather than taking unilateral decisions, to put in place a fruitful partnership with the professionals and the local authorities to be able to answer the real challenge citizens are confronted with.
"The social housing sector is not giving up. First, because the economic and social situation in the country calls for action. Secondly, because we have faith in our values and the public service mission, for all territories. Finally, because solidarity is our core value and 11 millions people are housed in quality dewllings" sounded the key message.
Housing Europe Deputy Secretary General and Policy Coordinator, Julien Dijol presented our comparative study in 6 European countries on financing of renovation in the social housing sector. You may watch the session on demand (in FR).