Report claims 3.5m in housing trouble

Overcrowding, overdue rent and homelessness main issues – and the number affected could double with the crisis.

3 February 2009

AROUND 3.5million are faced with housing problems and the number could double in the face of the economic crisis according to a recent charity report.

The Fondation Abbé Pierre estimates that 3.5million people in France have problems with housing.

Of this total, more than two million live in what the foundation describes as “difficult conditions”, 861,000 are in “precarious” arrangement including 88,400 living illegaly in housing where they have already been officially expelled.

The figure dwarfs the 100,000 people the government statistics group Insee claims are homeless.

Up to 6.6 million live in “fragile” short and medium-term circumstances, according to the foundation. This includes factors such as not being able to pay their rent or living in overcrowded conditions.

The housing crisis will hold back attempts to reduce the country’s housing shortage, the foundation’s report said, predicting that the shortfall will rise from 800,000 to 900,000 by the end of 2009.

The government’s housing programme was heavily criticised by the report which described it as “uncertain, incoherent and split between different interests”.

Despite an increase in housing construction not seen in 20 years, the type of housing was not matched to needs.

The report said that many homes claiming to fall into the social housing bracket actually fell into medium-priced housing making them inaccessible to the poor.

It said only 40% of new housing fell within reach of those on modest incomes compared with 67% in 2000.

The number of people moving out of social housing into private accommodation is also dropping. On average private rents in 2007 cost twice that of social accommodation, said the report.

It said that social housing was being limited to particular zones with high unemployment, poverty and immigration.

The foundation said that recent housing legislation giving a legal right to a home that came into force at the beginning of the year was “ambitious in principal” but it was uncertain what the effects of it would be in the first year.

Association Enfants de Don Quichotte set up red tents in Paris to highlight the need for long-term accommodation solutions for the city’s homeless. Photo: aleske

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