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Minister ‘open’ to seizing empty homes for people in need in France

A housing association has called for empty properties to be requisitioned where needed, with the law already allowing it where low-income people are ‘disadvantaged’ by low housing supply

A photo of a model see-saw with a model house and cut-outs of a family

Property that is empty over a long period should be requisitioned by the state to help house the lowest-income families who need it Pic: William Potter / Shutterstock

A consumer association has called for the French government to seize empty property and use it to accommodate people in need, with the relevant minister saying he could be ‘open’ to the idea.

President of the association Consommation, logement et cadre de vie (CLCV), Jean-Yves Mano, made the call in an interview with Merci pour l’info.

He said: “The right to property is not more important that the right to housing.

“I’ve heard the minister [Town and Housing Minister Olivier Klein] say that he is not against requisitions, but his office has said that it could be difficult to put into practice.”

Mr Mano said that previous presidents had used the system. He said: “Major revolutionaries practised requisitioning successfully. This includes President Jacques Chirac in 1995.”

He added that people whose homes would be requisitioned would be entitled to compensation from the state, as it recognises that owners would not be able to receive rent if the property was being used for government housing.

He said: “Owners would be paid because they won’t be getting rent. But requisitioning would not last forever. It would be for six years maximum.”

Legal right

French law already covers requisitioning to some extent. 

Article L. 642-1 of the Construction and Housing Code (Code de la construction et de l’habitation) states that prefects have authority to “requisition property…which has been vacant for more than 12 months, in municipalities where there are significant imbalances between housing supply and demand, to the detriment of low-income and disadvantaged persons”.

The 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen also allows for requisition. 

In Article 17, it states: "Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one may be deprived of it, except when public necessity, legally established, obviously requires it, and under the condition of fair and prior compensation.”

Minister ‘open’ to idea

Mr Klein’s office has said that “requisition is an avenue to explore”, and said that “public property” had already requisitioned in some cases.

However, the office stated: "Private housing can also be requisitioned…but this often takes several weeks, including the time to warn the owner, and obtain the mayor's agreement.

“It must also fall within the budgetary framework allocated to emergency accommodation. Moreover, 62% of long-term vacant dwellings are vacant because of major works to be carried out, which requisitioning must take into account.”

Second homes and empty properties have hit headlines recently after many communes with housing shortages and tensions increased their taxe d’habitation rates.

Related articles

Where is a local tax surcharge applied on second homes in France? 
House prices, empty homes tax, energy concerns: French property update
Houses in Brittany ‘should only be sold to local people’ 

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