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Controversial French bill affects social housing

The reaction of our French member USH

Paris, 15 April 2016 | Published in Economy, Social

On 13 April the French government has presented its draft bill on “equality and citizenship”. As a response to the terrorist attacks of January in Paris, the legislation focuses on the use of social housing as the main leverage to address the ghettoization issue. It aims at attracting middle classes in neighbourhoods by making it easier for them to gain access to social housing.

One of the main measures focuses on “paying close attention to” the allocation of social homes to middle classe and “not only to the poorest”. This bill is supposed to contribute to the fight against segregation, to promote social mix and equal opportunities in neighbourhoods.

The text introduces several changes in the social housing sector such as priority criteria defining that 25% of the dwellings allocated, not taking into account disadvantaged areas, will have to go to those with modest financial resources (instead of 19% today). Another change will be that landlords will benefit from more flexibility by being able to lower or increase the price of the rent when a tenant leaves in order to “blend the tenants within apartment blocks”.

However, the bill has raised the issue of social mix policies and has triggered numerous debates in French society. For our French member, USH (Union Sociale pour l’ Habitat), this bill is insufficient and ineffective. The policy of a city has to go beyond the simple allocation of social housing and be part of a real political strategy. Τhe key to make it work would be to improve the conditions in the neighbourhoods for existing residents by ensuring the provision of services, boosting access to employment and improving safety. 

Frédéric Paul, USH General Director, was hosted by a news show on French television on 13 April to talk about this bill and the issues that are at stake. He highlighted that people living in these neighbourhoods are just “people who want to live a normal life”, while he stressed the added value of access to services like “quality schools and transport”.