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A sad anniversary for tenants in France

One year on from the new presidency, heralded as pro-reform, what has been achieved?

Adoption of the enforceable right to housing is far from being accomplished. Voted in a hurry during the electoral campaign, the law was designed to house categories of people requesting housing considered to be priority cases, including the homeless. Target figures have not been met and procedural obstacles for candidates to be recognised as priority cases have multiplied.

The offensive against the social housing sector is intensifying, in various forms. Due to the budgetary restrictions imposed on certain sectors, compensating for the tax relief granted to other sectors, the envelope dedicated to social construction was reduced in 2008. There is a continuing failure to compensate for demolition operations of run-down residential blocks with equivalent new building operations. The Inner City Plan initiated by the minister in charge of city policies is a catalogue of one-off measures. All social housing organisations were required to put 1% of their housing up for sale. Queues of candidates and allocation waiting periods for public housing are getting longer. Due to the reform of the Livret A state-controlled savings scheme, used in particular to finance social housing construction, social builders’ costs for reimbursing loans will increase, leading in turn to higher rents. A general overhaul of social housing rents is on the agenda, likely to result in rent increases under the pretext of taking into account a number of environmental advantages. A decree designed to extend the list of costs tenants have to pay on top of their rents and increase the amount of these costs will soon be appearing. The government has voted for the income ceiling for obtaining social housing to be lowered and rental supplement to be raised.

These developments have a negative effect on tenants in both the social housing and the private sectors, an effect amplified by the increase in prices, such as the cost of heating fuel and everyday consumer products, and weakened spending power.

The universal right to housing is as far from the agenda as ever. The former tendency to concentrate national solidarity-based action on housing the poorest members of society at the expense of the slightly less poor is taking root. The proclaimed objective of creating an urban social mix is all talk. The "ghettoisation" of social housing areas and buildings is intensifying. Social policy for housing has become no more than a policy for social housing, with market criteria prevailing more every day.

The policy implemented over the least year is pursueing and heightening previous trends, and is not likely to do anything to solve the housing crisis afflicting France.

A sad anniversary indeed for the new president and his government!

Jacquy Tiset

Confédération Nationale du Logement ( National Housing Confederation )