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French property: empty offices identified as urban housing solution

Notaires believe planning regulation should be amended to make conversions easier

Office-to-home conversions are not common in France Pic: Jat306 / Shutterstock

Office-to-home conversions are rare in France but the idea is being championed by the notaires’ trade body, the Conseil supérieur du notariat.

The notaires believe it would simplify life and say amending the Code de l’urbanisme to allow offices in copropriétés shared buildings to change their use to homes would be one way of creating more housing in towns and cities.

Read more: Make sense of local rules governing planning permission around France

It has also called for planning permission laws to be eased to allow office conversions into flats through a simple declaration of works.

‘Political interference’

Looking at underlying reasons for the small number of conversions, the notaires say political interference is the cause of half of announced projects being abandoned.

Town councils often believe it is better to retain empty office blocks in the hope that they will one day be filled and consequently bring jobs to the commune, rather than see them converted into housing.

Other difficulties are around the locations of office blocks – the ones most likely to be empty usually being the ones sited away from public transport and other amenities – and the structural changes that have to be made in order to build flats.

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