We must build by reconciling ecology and the social
Ian Brossat Deputy Mayor PCF in Paris, in charge of housing
Even a few years ago, did we imagine that a strange unnatural coalition, associating the most reactionary right, EELV and rebellious France, could oppose the creation of 80 social housing units (55 for poor families, 25 for the homeless) in the heart of the 16th arrondissement? Such a prospect would have been simply unthinkable. Yet this is what happened on rue Erlanger. To cancel the building permit, the administrative court is based on a wish adopted by the Council of Paris last spring by this alliance of carp and rabbit.
The arguments invoked by the opponents are however of an unfathomable weakness, arguing that it would be a question of “concreting” a green space, forgetting that the housing would take the place of a paved schoolyard and ignoring by the the same occasion that the site is located 200 meters from the Bois de Boulogne.
This event would hardly matter if it did not refer to a broader debate on the future of our metropolises. At a time when several municipalities are launching a revision of their local urban plan, one word is in everyone’s mouth, “de-densification”.
Density is the enemy. It is to put aside two fundamental elements. The first is that the need for housing – and especially affordable housing – is absolutely significant. The second is that by not wanting to build homes in dense areas, we run the risk of pushing for urban sprawl, and therefore for the artificialization of land. Because you have to build somewhere. Our country now has 300,000 homeless, and it’s a safe bet that this situation will deteriorate in the coming years with the sharpening economic and social crisis.
To this argument, many respond that it would be better to mobilize vacant areas: empty housing and office buildings. This point is correct. It is so bad that the City of Paris has not waited for anyone to convert 350,000 square meters of obsolete office space into housing over the past six years. The capital also has more than 100,000 vacant homes. But this is to forget a little quickly that the municipalities have no power of requisition; this is in the hands of the prefect, who, when addresses are nevertheless reported to him, is reluctant to apply it. There would be reason to mobilize to demand that the municipalities have more skills in this area. After all, local elected officials would not be in the worst position to decide on the requisition of a particular building left unoccupied for ages. It remains that the municipalities do not have this weapon today and it is highly unlikely that the government, which has not shown overwhelming confidence in local authorities, entrusts them with this responsibility. .
Should we therefore wait for a legislative change – implausible in the short term – to act in favor of housing for all? Certainly not. Even less in this period characterized by an explosion of poverty and precariousness. We must therefore build. And he wants to build better in a dense area than to maintain the development of suburban housing in the second ring. This is, in my eyes, the only consistent and serious position. The only one that makes it possible to reconcile ecology and the social.
Responsibilities of the City of Paris
Since Abbé Pierre’s appeal in 1954, alerts have been piling up about poor housing in France. In 2020, in its 25th report, the Abbé-Pierre Foundation estimated that 4 million people were still in a situation of poor housing, a situation worsened due to the health crisis causing millions of people to fall into poverty. From emergency food aid to social minima, all sectors of social action are seeing new profiles of households in difficulty. The issue of housing is no exception.
The National Agency for Housing Information (Anil) noted, in November 2020, an increase in consultations on unpaid rent situations of around 50% compared to November 2019. The City of Paris is however planning a decrease of subsidy from its departmental agency (Adil) of 25% in 2021. And the situation will worsen, while households see their savings melt and businesses go out of business. In addition to the massive increase in support needs, there is the non-recourse to existing aid, because the many households that enter into poverty face a lack of information and must also overcome great psychological distress and the symbolic barrier of recourse to social assistance.
For these new precarious people and all the poorly housed, while the City and the State have been transferring responsibility for decades, we ask that priority be given to prevention. In this exceptional period in all respects, the state must first extend the winter break after March 31.
We also hope that the recommendations of the National Housing Council will be implemented without delay, in particular the increase of the compensation fund for owners to limit rental evictions and a consequent revaluation of the Solidarity Fund for housing ( FSL), to avoid eviction procedures for bad debts.
A person must be able to stay at home, whatever the cost, because that cost will always be less than the human, social and economic costs associated with an eviction, as well as the difficult reconstruction that follows.
While this question depends a lot on the State, the City of Paris must also assume its responsibilities by fully participating in a “Housing First” approach. For this, we propose to urgently mobilize the vacant real estate reserves. The City must massively produce social housing and accommodation, as a priority by optimizing the existing housing stock, in a real political ecology approach. Let’s prioritize the transformation of existing offices, instead of building new ones, and increase the resources allocated to pre-empting housing and combating vacant real estate, in order to allow everyone to access, finally, to decent accommodation.
Open letter to the Prime Minister
Mr. Prime Minister,
The inhabitants of the metropolis of Greater Paris and the whole of the Île-de-France region have long suffered from a lasting housing crisis. The situation continues to deteriorate due to the economic and social crisis following the pandemic.
The number of social housing applicants is reaching records, as is the number of poorly housed people. At the same time, housing construction, especially social housing, is collapsing.
This situation is unbearable. It generates hundreds of thousands of human tragedies, poorly housed people or, worse, on the street, while, at the same time, the construction industry in Île-de-France is preparing to lose tens of thousands. jobs in 2021.
In such a context, the total absence of government measures to support construction and in particular social housing is incomprehensible.
It is caricature and irresponsible that the stimulus plan has made absolutely no budget for construction aid.
At a time when the health situation is further amplifying the economic and social crisis, there is an urgent need to change course. We therefore ask you to initiate an emergency housing plan as quickly as possible, by helping the construction of social housing with massive aid to the stone of 5 billion euros at the national level, to initiate the construction of several hundred thousand social housing units. Only such an initiative is likely to give hope to millions of housing seekers and allow the building sector to revive.
This relaunch of construction should be an opportunity to accelerate the ecological transition of the building sector. We propose that it be carried out on the basis of virtuous constructions from an environmental point of view, with buildings made from bio and geosourced materials, which minimize the use of concrete.
These new dwellings will have to be massively built in wood frame and use stone, hemp, raw earth and straw, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible.
In Île-de-France, the resource of organic and geosourced materials, earth, straw and hemp in particular, is very abundant. You have to use it.
This relaunch of construction should not oppose emergency measures to free the hundreds of thousands of empty housing and second homes in Île-de-France. Empty housing in the region must be requisitioned as quickly as possible, and empty housing and second homes must be taxed to free tens of thousands as quickly as possible to house the poorly housed. It is also necessary to extend the framework for private rents to curb the surge in rental prices, which is making a part of the population precarious and excluding. For housing more than ever there is an emergency.
That is why, Mr. Prime Minister, we are requesting a meeting, in order to present our proposals to you so that measures are finally taken.
Signatories: Léa Vasa, Émile Meunier, Antoinette Guhl, Fatoumata Koné, elected representatives of the Ecologist Group of Paris. Signatories: Patrice Leclerc, president of the group of elected officials of the Left Front and citizens of the Greater Paris metropolis, mayor of Gennevilliers, Marie-Hélène Amiable, mayor of Bagneux, Jean-Noël Aqua, metropolitan councilor of Paris, François Asensi , mayor of Tremblay-en-France, Jacques Baudrier, metropolitan councilor of Paris, Jacqueline Belhomme, mayor of Malakoff, Patrice Bessac, mayor of Montreuil, Hélène Bidard, metropolitan councilor of Paris, Stéphane Blanchet, mayor of Sevran, Nicolas Bonnet-Oulaldj , metropolitan councilor of Paris, Philippe Bouyssou, mayor of Ivry-sur-Seine, Ian Brossat, metropolitan councilor of Paris, Stéphanie Daumin, mayor of Chevilly-Larue, Patrick Douet, mayor of Bonneuil-sur-Marne, Jean-Philippe Gautrais , mayor of Fontenay-sous-Bois, president of the Forum métropolitain du Grand Paris, Patrick Jarry, mayor of Nanterre, Djeneba Keita, vice-president of the metropolis of Greater Paris, Michel Lepretre, president of the Grand Orly Seine Biè area vre, vice-president of the metropolis of Greater Paris, Anne-Gaëlle Leydier, metropolitan councilor of Villejuif, Gilles Poux, mayor of La Courneuve, Laurent Russier, metropolitan councilor of Saint-Denis, Abdel Sadi, mayor of Bobigny, Olivier Sarrabeyrousse, mayor of Noisy-le-Sec, Azzédine Taïbi, mayor of Stains, Patricia Tordjman, mayor of Gentilly, Cécile Veyrune-Legrain, councilor of Vitry.