Landlords launch EU challenge to French social housing

RFI/Devrim Alpoge

Owners who let property in France say they are victims of unfair competition, because the French government subsidises publicly-owned property, allowing tenants to pay less rent.


In a challenge which could have significant implications for social housing around Europe, the UNPI, a French association of private landlords, has lodged a complaint with the European Commission in Brussels.

UNPI president Jean Perrin said in a statement on Monday that “publicly-owned property in France benefits from 20 billion euros per year (without including indirect and local subsidies) and is in direct competition with private sector landlords”.

Perrin insists that private and public owners of apartments are now targeting the same people.
“There are 378,000 low-rent apartments or houses which are occupied by households whose income is over 4,000 euros per month”, he says, maintaining that too many people living in low-rent government-owned social housing have incomes which would enable them to rent on the open market.

Laurent Hhekière of the USH, an umbrella group which represents social housing organisations, does not dispute that figure but insists that the people concerned earned less per month when they were first allocated the accommodation.

And Thierry Bert of the USH says “only 13 billion goes to the rented social sector, out of a total of 40 billion in housing aid spent either on actual buildings or people.”

The UNPI has decided to challenge the public housing subsidies in response to a decision by France’s new housing minister, Cécile Duflot to impose caps on private sector rents, with effect from July.

Surveys show that 70 per cent of the French population approves the idea of rent control in certain areas, though 45 per cent worry that more generalised rent caps could lead to a reduction in the number of apartments available for rent.

Prices for new property in Paris have doubled over the last ten years while prices for older, period buildings are now on average three times higher than in 2002.

René Dutrey of Adil 75, a government agency which produced a report on the accommodation situation in Paris, says “the typical buyer in Paris today is a single person or a couple without children.”

The report concludes that the number of first-time buyers who can afford accommodation in Paris is dwindling rapidly.



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