Article published July 13, updated July 14
1. Homeowners boost as extra €1.6bn ploughed into eco-renovations grants scheme
The much-criticised MaPrimeRénov’ scheme is set to see its funding increased to €4 billion in 2024.
The scheme – which offers government grants towards homeowners’ eco-friendly home renovations – currently has a €2.4 billion budget, meaning it will see a 66% increase.
France’s prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, made the announcement on Wednesday (July 12), calling it an ‘unprecedented’ increase in funding.
It is part of a raft of policies, costing around €7 billion, to help France reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The country must achieve a 50% reduction in its CO2 by 2030, to meet EU targets. Currently, France has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by around 25%.
The government believes increasing funds available to the scheme will allow more renovations – ultimately reducing emissions – to be financed, particularly for modest-income households.
As of now, it is unclear how the increased financing will work – some options include the amount of money granted covering a larger percentage of renovation costs, more works being covered by the scheme, or more households being able to access grants.
In June, the government said it was putting an extra €300million into the scheme, but that has now been dwarfed by the latest announcement.
MaPrimeRénov’ has come under criticism for a number of issues.
Critics cite the complex application process and the lack of tradespeople qualified to renovate properties for the scheme – something the government says that they are trying to tackle.
A group of homeowners who applied for the scheme are also suing the project after payments due to them from the scheme were withheld or abruptly cancelled.
A recent Senate report on the scheme recommended that funding for the project should reach €4.6 billion annually.
2. For sale: The 600-year-old wooden house more energy efficient than many modern homes
A 15th-century wooden house in Angers – said to be the city’s oldest – is up for sale.
The Maison du chapelain de Landemore sits on rue Saint-Aignan in the heart of the historic city centre.
Something special about the €550,000 listed property, however, is its diagnostic de performance énergétique (DPE) rating.
In its energy inspection, the house – which has seen no modern renovation work done and has seen its structure reverted to its original state – was given an ‘E’ ranking.
In comparison, many buildings constructed in the 19th-century Haussman style, and even social housing built in the 1970s, possess F or even G ratings – the lowest possible.
The property includes stained-glass windows and a 15th-century fireplace to go along with the timber frame.
The property’s owner renovated the house, removing the cement, plasterboards and cinder blocks, instead opting for traditional materials such as oak and cob (earth mixed with straw) to insulate the home.
He also rebuilt the traditional limestone walls of the house, meaning the building stays cool in summer, which indirectly helped the building become more energy efficient.
The price for the 131m² building places it on the higher end of the spectrum in the city, but this could be offset by the cheaper energy bills.
3. Homeowner forced to pay €70,000 to demolish illegally-built house
A property owner in the Hérault department was ordered to pay for the demolition of their illegally-constructed property to the tune of €70,000.
The 120m² home had been built without receiving authorisation from the local mairie and was constructed on a plot of land solely designated for agricultural purposes.
On top of the fines and price of hiring a demolition company, the homeowner also faced issues with asbestos in the construction materials, leading to the heightened cost of the demolition.
“It's a message we're sending out to all rogue landowners, people who build without right or title,” said Hugues Moutouh, the prefect of the Hérault department.
“We can't… let people build with impunity, wherever they want, without any permits,” he added.
The offence was first discovered in 2012, but it took eleven years for the house to be demolished.
The problem used to only be in coastal areas in the department, but with the lack of available housing, people are increasingly beginning to look for spots to construct buildings further inland.
Pierre Cros, the mayor of the Nissan-lez-Enserune village in the department, said illegal constructions are beginning to spring up near the commune’s 700-hectare forest.
One common method is to park a caravan on a plot of land, then enclose it with walls to create a makeshift house, he added.
Mr Cros said others demolish constructions when ordered by the department, before building again at the same location, requiring a new case to be opened that could take months before the demolition is ordered again.
Hérault recorded 30,000 land plots containing illegal constructions in 2021, but the department is beginning to fight back.
The main method is by levying heavy fines. If the demolition of a building is not done by a certain date, additional daily penalties of up to €90 can be imposed.
One case saw an illegal construction rack up €60,000 in late demolition fines alone.
The demolition in question “is a powerful symbol of the law's effectiveness,” the prefect added.
4. Residents claim nearby US fast food chain smells too much
A group of Parisians have launched a legal complaint against a nearby fast food chain over strong smells allegedly coming from the outlet.
Reminiscent of the story from earlier this year about the crêperie that smelled too much like crêpes, this time the complaints are about fried chicken.
The restaurant in question is the flagship store of the American fast-food chain Popeyes, situated next to the Gare du Nord station in the heart of Paris.
The fast food chain, previously a Buffalo Grill restaurant, is surprised by the ire against it, due to the number of other fast food chains nearby.
“Our goal is to live in an apartment that doesn't stink of fried chicken and French fries,” said Anne, a resident of an apartment complex near the chain.
“Our aim is not to close the restaurant, nor to take money away, but to find out what needs to be done so that there is no longer any discomfort," she added.
“The smell is permanent. The Popeyes company has claimed to have carried out work, but it's ineffective because the smell persists,” said the residents’ lawyer Nicolas Bouchard.
Alongside the smells, the noise from late-night food deliveries and cleaning early in the morning – as well as a lack of hygiene from the restaurant – has led to the case.
“When you arrive home and are assaulted by the smell, the stress has an impact on your health. This weekend I had to close the windows despite the heat,” complained Anne.
Another complaint of the residents is that the combined disturbances will lead to a loss of value for the flats inside the block.
“They could face a loss of value of 10 to 15%, depending on the intensity of the odour. Some properties could even become unmarketable,” added the lawyer.
One resident looking to sell their home has temporarily cancelled all viewings because the smell is putting potential buyers off.
The restaurant said that it has taken steps to improve the situation – something the residents acknowledge – but also says “the conclusions of the various reports attest to the overall conformity of the installations and their compliance with current standards”.
A court date for the case has been set for July 25, after attempts to reach an amicable conclusion failed.
Read more: Brittany Crêpe court row update
5. France mulls making some home sales conditional on energy efficiency improvement works
A potential change to energy efficiency rules could see homes with a poor diagnostic de performance énergétique (DPE) rating banned from being sold unless owners commit to paying for renovation works, according to a well-known French property industry magazine, Le Moniteur Immo.
This could have major implications for owners of older stone or character properties. Earlier this year, campaigners called for such homes to be exempt from stricter energy efficiency rules expected in future years under EU energy-efficiency plans, as the renovations required, they said, would detract from the charm of the properties.
Rules banning the renting of very energy-inefficient homes are already in place – and set to become progressively stricter up until 2040 – but the government is now also said to be mulling over introducing restrictions on property sales, too.
New legislation means all property sales must include an assessment of the building’s DPE rating, and if at the lowest levels, an ‘energy audit’ detailing potential works to improve the building’s energy efficiency must be included.
Le Moniteur Info states that well-informed sources report that the government is considering a legal change which would require that sales of homes below a certain efficiency level must include a commitment from the seller towards paying for renovation. It states money for the work would be kept aside by the notaire and the work could be spread out over several years. It is unclear if this would be before or after the property finally changes hands.
Reportedly, low-income households would be given grants – in some cases up to 100% of the renovation value – towards this.