Fake estate agency window attracts ire of second-home owners
Second-home owners in Brittany have hit back at an artist’s attempt to raise awareness of housing pressure via unauthorised photos of their shuttered properties.
Maxime Voidy has created a fake estate agency window in the port town of Lannion in the Cotes-d'Armor, Brittany, which exclusively features homes that are unoccupied for the greater part of the year.
The installation, which can be seen at the L'Imagerie arts centre in the town until June 3, includes made-up reference numbers for each property and encourages people to call the fictitious ‘Sleeping House Agency’ for more information.
"It's a slightly prickly way to raise awareness of the housing problem," the artist, Mr Voidy, told Actu.fr.
He has so far photographed properties in around 20 seaside resorts where rates of second homes vary from 50% to 80%, with the pictures also posted on his website.
However, the owners of some of the properties featured in the exhibition have slammed the artwork, insisting the photographs were taken without their consent and put their homes at increased risk of burglaries or being squatted.
In a letter to the local newspaper, Le Trégor, they reportedly threatened court action, although the gallery displaying the exhibition says it has received no requests to remove any photos.
“This exhibition aims to raise awareness rather than to denounce [owners]”, the artist said in a press release.
He added to Le Figaro that he “does not need authorisation to photograph private houses”, adding: “I never enter the properties. I always photograph from the public space, in the same way a walker could”.
None of the property locations are mentioned in the fictitious adverts.
Incentive for Vendée landlords to rent out properties to seasonal workers
Property owners in a seaside town in western France stand to receive up to €4,900 over a period of three years if they rent to seasonal workers.
The mairie of Les Sables d'Olonne, in the Vendée, says the incentive is to help local employers who are struggling to recruit seasonal workers due to a shortage of accommodation.
Under the scheme, which is called ‘Louez l’été’, landlords would receive €2,400, as well as a subsidy of up to €2,500 to bring their property up to standard.
Renovations could include buying new appliances and furnishings, including bedding, ovens and fridges, and/or improving the property’s energy rating.
Landlords would also benefit from a free rental management service, including help drafting leases and inventories.
To qualify for the money they must rent to seasonal workers for at least 10 consecutive weeks per year for three years, between April 1 and September 30. The property must comprise a living room of at least 9m², a bathroom with a bath or shower plus toilet, a kitchenette and a ceiling higher than 2.20m.
The cost of the scheme will be shared between the municipality and employers who benefit from it in a 70:30 split.
The town’s population jumps from 55,000 inhabitants to almost 200,000 in the summer, largely because of tourism–related activity. Some 70% of its seasonal workers are not from Vendée, reports Les Echos.
Mayor appeals to second-home owners to rent out properties
The mayor of an island off Roscoff in Brittany has come up with a novel idea to solve his commune’s housing shortage – renting properties from second-home owners to sublet to those looking to live there permanently.
Of the 750 homes on Île de Batz, nearly 500 are second homes, according to Eric Grall, the island’s mayor.
As such, families hoping to put down roots on the island often cannot find a property or are priced out of the market.
Mr Grall told Le Figaro: “It has been a growing trend for quite a few years. About nine out of 10 sales are for second homes. This is normal, given the increase in prices. People who want to live in permanent residences cannot afford it. The salaries of islanders are not compatible with house prices, which are around €5,000/m².
To solve the problem, Mr Grall proposes that second-home owners rent their properties to the local authority for a year at the market rate. The mairie, in turn, will sublet them at reduced rates of €6.50/m² (approximately €455/month for a 70m² house) to those wishing to settle in the area.
So far only one owner has agreed to the arrangement, with the property in question being used to house a young family. Two other homeowners are in discussions with the mairie.
It is looking for around a dozen second homes to sublet, but acknowledges many owners would rather use their properties for more lucrative seasonal rentals, including on platforms such as Airbnb.
Its argument is that renting to the mairie offers owners less risk, as the town hall would cover damage and non-payment.
It is eyeing a future hike in taxes on second-home owners to finance the scheme.
“What we want is to tell young families that it is possible to live on the island of Batz for a reasonable price. We cannot condemn municipalities like ours to become reserves for second homes,” said Mr Grall.
In related news, several thousand residents in the Pays Basque took to the streets of Bayonne last weekend (April 1) to protest the lack of affordable housing in the region.
The demonstrators demanded tougher regulation of the local property market, rent control to keep prices down, as well as more social housing.
In 10 years, the population of the Pays Basque has risen by 9.6%, alongside a rise in the number of second homes and seasonal rentals. Second homes now represent 21% of the area's housing stock.
Property here has increased by more than 35% per square metre in four years, reaching €8,000 to €10,000/m² in cities like Biarritz and Saint-Jean-de-Luz.
Shepherd launches petition – and rap video – denouncing ‘dog house’ accommodation
Shepherd huts are a romantic end-of-garden dream for many homeowners, but the reality of living in one has been brought into sharp focus by a rap song doing the rounds online.
Félix Portello, a 33-year-old shepherd, was inspired to record the song as a protest against the rudimentary accommodation he is forced to put up with as a shepherd in the Vanoise mountains in the Savoie region.
Of the basic wooden huts, he complains: "We live, two of us plus six dogs, in 4m² / There is only one window, not two, 40cm² / No gas for cooking / No heating without setting fire to the place / No space to get up / A mattress on the floor.”
The video, which was uploaded on March 25, has so far been watched over 23,000 times.
Mr Portello has also launched a petition in which he calls for urgent investment from parks authorities in better housing.
The refuges were built as temporary shelters for shepherds forced to stay close to their flocks since the return of wolves to the region.
“Rather than investing in the construction of new decent and sustainable housing, the National Parks (Vanoise, Ecrins, Mercantour), which have a construction monopoly in their territory, prefer 4m² cabins to house shepherds in high altitudes for periods of two to 15 weeks,” he writes.
“4m² is the size of a garden shed, a small bathroom... or a large dog house. And it's half the size of the smallest Parisian apartments.
“We live crammed between bags of salt and kibble with barely room to sleep. We cannot house our dogs when the weather is bad or cook. No solution is provided for showering or going to the toilet. As these huts are inexpensive for the parks, we see them becoming standard throughout the rest of the Alps.”
The huts are moved several times throughout the season by helicopter, which Mr Portello says causes pollution and disturbance for wildlife.
A representative for the Vanoise National Park told France Bleu Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes that the 11 cabins were designed as emergency solutions and that a shepherd’s accommodation was also the responsibility of his or her employers.
Flat owners warned over legal fees liability
A quirk of flat ownership in France means owners may be liable to share court costs with other people in their building – potentially even if they win cases brought by those syndic members against them.
Copropriété is a legal regime under which a building divided into several flats is owned jointly by the individual flat-owners.
As well as paying general charges relating to the upkeep of communal areas of the building, flat owners must also share the legal costs of their co-ownership, whether or not they are directly impacted by the proceedings.
A case heard by France’s highest court last month (March 16) put the spotlight on exactly how these rules can be applied.
Proceedings centred around a syndic claiming arrears of charges from another co-owner, which the latter contested.
The court said the co-owner could be exempt from sharing legal costs if the judge ruled in his favour. The costs incurred by the syndic would then be distributed among the other co-owners only.
However, the court warned it is up to the judge to decide whether to enforce this strictly.
"In the event of a dispute about the distribution of these legal costs, he may decide otherwise in the event of consideration of the equity or the economic situation of the parties to the trial,” the court ruled.
“The judge, without having to explain himself, can decide that fairness requires that the victorious co-owner bear his share of the procedural costs incurred by his adversary,” it concluded.