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Move to simplify and overhaul housing law under attack

A move to transform labyrinthine housing, planning and building rules to allow “more construction that is better and cheaper” has come under fire for including  ‘council house’ sales and weaker guarantees on housing provision.

The Loi Elan – Evolution du Logement, de l’Aménagement et du Numérique – is a wide-ranging bid to update building regulations but it is being seen on some sides as changing the French social housing model which provides 4.5million homes for 10million people.

The 2018 finance law is cutting €1.5billion from social housing budgets by 2020, and these organisations are being told to sell up to 800,000 properties to fund the building of 2.4million new homes.

Left-wing MPs have opposed it saying it is like “an open bar” where speculators will squeeze out people who need homes and that social housing in sought-after areas will end.

Since 2000 the obligation for communes with too little social housing to work towards providing 25% of ‘council’ homes has resulted in the construction of 500,000 homes even in some of the most exclusive areas and is seen as helping improve the social ‘mix’ and boost mobility.

Elsewhere, the bill – that would also ease ways to turn offices into housing, bring in residential leases and carry out energy retrofits – includes changes to the Construction Code that would sweep away disabled access standards.

Today all residential properties of more than four floors must offer 100% of flats with disabled access but the new law would reduce this to 10% to lessen costs for builders. The 90% remaining must be ‘easily converted’ to full access by fitting new doorways and a shower instead of a bath... but costs would be paid by the tenant or, in the case of social housing, the landlord.

Another section would end the need for architects to compete over social housing projects and the architects profession has called it a step back in time that would “re-create the schemes and the problems we are nowadays trying to fix”.

One highly publicised measure, creating a short ‘mobility lease’ of from one to 10 months rather than the present minimum 12, is attracting strong criticism over the risk of making tenants’ status more precarious and the temptation for some landlords to resort to it systematically.

However, proposals to end the Loi littoral ban on new housing in coastal areas were all but rejected.

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