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The figures behind poor housing conditions

2009 report on poor housing conditions, The Abbé Pierre Foundation

In 2009, there are 3.5 million people in France who are either homeless or poorly housed. In addition to this figure, there are over 6.5 million people living in fragile short or mid-term housing situations. These alarming figures emphasize the extent of the housing crisis, and the difficulties that it creates for ever-increasing households.

3.5 million homeless or poorly housed people…

Among the 3.5 million people facing a serious problem of poor housing, there are 100,000 who doen’t have a fixed address. This estimation, made by the Abbé Pierre Foundation, is based on a national survey of 2001 carried out by the National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) regarding households using food distribution services as well as free shelters. If this survey is the first census of homeless ever made in France, the estimation announced (86,000) seemed smaller than the reality. For many observers, the level of financing allocated to “115” (the social emergency number) or even to hotel rooms (from the budgets of cities and departments) reveal the consequent needs, and therefore, a homeless population that could count with at least 100,000 people.

In addition to these homeless people, who face some of the most difficult situations, there are others who do not have their own homes; and in total, there are almost 600,000 people who suffer from the lack of housing. According to the 1999 general population census, 50,000 people live in hotel rooms and 41,400 in improvised housing (sheds, provisional constructions, etc.). According to a survey carried out in 2005 by the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), resorting to camping and mobile homes is now a new phenomenon that affects around 100,000 people. In addition to that, there are all those people who are accommodated by others in precarious housing conditions which affects both: the hosting as well as the hosted person. Because of the lack of information available on this group of people in the 2006’s Housing Enquiry, we have relied on the 2002 survey by the Abbé Pierre Foundation, and estimate that there are 150,000 people in this situation. Finally, a report made by the Revenue Court and published in 2007, besides data updated from the Measures Guide published by DGALN/DGAS in September 2008, allow us to estimate that 152,100 people are hosted in shelter and integration structures, i.e. emergency reception (not including emergency shelters), housing shelters and social reintegration centres (CHRS), social housing (not including Maisons-relais), welcome centres for asylum seekers, places that are financed thanks to the temporary housing aid (ALT), etc.

In addition to the 600,000 people who are deprived of homes, there are two million people who live in very difficult housing conditions. On the one hand, these situations arise from inconvenience and poor housing quality, that is, anyone without basic sanitary facilities (1), cooking facilities, facilities where the facing is in a bad state and without electric wiring (2). From the 2006’s Housing Survey, the DGALN estimates that there are 1,325,000 people living in 711,000 uncomfortable or poor quality accomodations. On the other hand, many people live in difficult conditions as a result of excessive overcrowding (while they live in an accommodation containing two rooms less than the “necessary” number of rooms in that household) (3). According to the 2006’s Housing Survey, this concerns 183,000 accommodations in which 797,000 people live. According to the DGALN, and without double counting, this brings to 2,044,000 the total number of people confronted with this problem of inconvenience, poor quality housing or overcrowding. In addition, the news regularly highlights scenes of these unhealthy situations, of infant lead poisoning, of furnished hotels in states of degradation, of slumlords, or even the reconstruction on the fringe of towns in shanty towns, once thought to have disappeared. Tallying a part of these types of housing, ministries estimate there are 600,000 miserable accommodations, which will concern a little more than one million people. The poorest households continue, therefore, to be welcomed in legally and socially unacceptable conditions despite the housing improvement policies in place for many decades.

Among those homeless or poorly housed households in France, there are 860,000 people living in precarious situations ; either because they are tenants or sub-lessees in a furnished apartment (the 2006 Housing survey counts 640,000 people in this situation), or because they occupy an accommodation without permission or a title, following a legal decision pronouncing eviction. Based on data provided by the Interior Ministry, in 2007 there were over 221,000 people facing this situation of extreme fragility.

... In addition to this figure, over 6.5 million people face fragile short or mid-term housing situations.

These extreme situations of “poor housing” should not mask the situations of real short and mid-term fragility which over 6.5 million people face. Friends or family accommodate some households under conditions, which, without considering it as “very difficult”, reveal an extremely precarious situation where they are concerned. Over 820,000 such people are concerned, according to the 2002 Housing Survey. Insecurity is equally translated by the lack of comfortable housing. In addition to the “extremely” overcrowded households, 3.5 million people face overcrowding in the “broad sense”, i.e. accommodations containing one room less than the designated “necessary” number of rooms for the household. To this, we can also add those households that live in degraded collective ownership properties in need of public intervention. If the 2002 Housing survey stated 300,000 degraded collectively-owned accommodations, the actors concerned by this phenomenon estimate that today, over 350,000 households, or around 875,00 people, face this situation.

In view of the housing crisis that has worsened over the last ten years, households also now face new difficulties, notably difficulties remaining in their accommodation and coping with associated expenses. According to the 2006 Housing Survey, over one million people are faced with the problem of unpaid bills. It mainly concerns tenants unable to pay their rent (494,800 households, or 1.2 million people), but also homeowners unable to pay their service charges or reimburse their loans (70,000 households, or 175,000 people).

1-) The lack of running water, sanitary installation or interior toilets.

2-) Unfitted fixtures, wires that are unprotected by rods, lack of earth electrode.

3-) The rate of overcrowding and those housed by others is low, because they are based on declarative surveys (INSEE). These housing situations or overcrowding are considered illegal by public lessors and by administrations (family benefits fund –CAF) and are, therefore, not always declared.

4-) These data do not appear in the table of Figures on Poor Housing, in order to avoid all double counting.