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American donates flat to French town to help people in trouble

The former owner asked for the 51m² flat to be used for people ‘in precarious situations’

The picturesque town of Sanary-sur-Mer, where the flat is located Pic: ivan bastien / Shutterstock

An American man returning to the US after 20 years in France has donated his flat to his local commune so it can be used by people in urgent need of accommodation. 

Michael Agelasto, 78, is a retired teacher of English as a foreign language, and bought the 51m² flat in the commune of Sanary-sur-Mer (close to Toulon) in June 2002 for €115,846.

He moved to France from China where he had been living for 35 years, where he gained a doctorate in education from Hong Kong university.

Owner wants people in ‘precarious situations’ to use it

The flat now has an estimated value of €300,000, but Dr Agelasto has signed an agreement before notaires with the commune to hand it over for at least the next 15 years, with a condition that it be used by people in trouble.

“He asked that we use it for people in precarious situations,” Patricia Aubert, deputy mayor of the commune that is home to around 17,000 people, told The Connexion.

“Victims of domestic violence, homeless people, isolated minors, and refugees are the sort of people who come to the mairie seeking help, and we are very glad to have Dr Agelasto’s flat as somewhere we can use to house them,” she added.

Dr Agelasto, who earlier in his life spent years travelling the globe on a bicycle, told the local French paper, Var Matin, that he had another flat in Pasadena, California, and that now he was getting older, he wanted to return to the United States.

“I have enough money to see me through,” he said.

“Rather than selling the flat, and being heavily taxed for capital gains both in France and in the United States – and then having even more money sitting in the bank – I thought it would be better to leave it to the commune where it can do some good.”

Read more: Villagers in France save last local shop by funding it themselves

Multiple buildings donated to communer

Ms Aubert said the municipal council did not know Dr Agelasto at all before he contacted them via the municipal website, offering his flat to the commune.

“It is a very kind gesture,” she said.

She added that the commune – both under the present mayor Daniel Alsters and his predecessor Ferdinand Bernhard – had a fixed policy of looking after municipal buildings and fixtures and fittings to a high standard.

“I think this gives people confidence in knowing that if they donate buildings to the commune, there is a very good chance that they will be looked after well and appreciated.”

Dr Agelasto is the 10th person to donate buildings or land to the commune, with one earlier donator also specifying that the building they donate be used for social purposes.

It is presently in the process of being converted into an old-age home.

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