1. How a shortage of certified workers is holding up France’s drive for eco-friendly home renovations
France has a chronic shortage of workers with the necessary certifications to carry out government-funded eco-friendly home renovations.
That is according to a new study by France’s energy efficiency agency Ademe (Agence de l’environnement et de la maîtrise de l’énergie).
A stipulation for a number of schemes aimed at incentivising people to do ecological home renovations – most notably the MaPrimeRenov’ – is that the work must be done by a tradesperson with a ‘Reconnu garant de l’environnement’ (RGE) certification.
But only 62,410 of France's 1.3 million listed building companies - fewer than 5% - have the certificate, according to Ademe.
The difficulty is further exacerbated by regional differences where the location of a property can make it much harder to find a trader due to a lack of supply.
In regions such as Pays de La Loire and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté - where the proportion of building companies with RGE certification is 7.6% and 7.4% respectively - it may not be difficult to find someone.
But it is likely to be harder in the Parisian region Île-de-France, where only 1.8% of companies have it.
It is the same in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (1.3%) and Corsica (0.7%).
This creates a huge backlog for the schemes, as those seeking to apply for MaPrimeRénov’ or others scramble to book these precious companies in the short time windows afforded to them when applying for aid.
Last year, France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, said he wanted to quadruple the number of RGE-certified tradespeople by 2028 to 250,000.
But “for the moment the number of RGE craftsmen is not progressing,” said Romain Villain, co-founder of start-up Heero, which aims to help people find certified tradespeople in their areas.
The company does this by combining the overall number of certified tradespeople with their geographic scarcity to give areas an artisanal tension index (ITA) detailing how hard it is to find one.
“One-in-four towns in mainland France has a high or very high level of tension among craftsmen with an ITA of over 60, which means that individuals cannot easily find RGE companies,” said Mr Villain.
The average ITA in Corsica is 76, and in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur it is 69. Despite the high number of certified craftsmen in Brittany, the demand for projects (caused in part by a large stock of both main and secondary residencies) means it still faces an ITA of 60.
The revelations come as a further blow for the MaPrimeRenov’ scheme, after successive weeks have seen the Defender of Rights complain about the programme’s online failings in the Senate, and hundreds take it to court for lack of payments.
2. Riviera house of Queen Elizabeth II’s cousin up for auction
The former manor house of Princess Margaret of Denmark, a distant cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, is up for auction this week, and, if you have a few million euros in your back pocket, it could be yours.
“La Carrière”, located in Villefranche-sur-Mer – close to Nice – is a 550m² manor house with six bedrooms, overlooking the harbour and beach of the idyllic village.
It was the primary home of Princess Margaret before her death in 1992.
Built a little over 100 years ago, the stone for the manor house comes from the fortress it lies within, and the turrets and walls surrounding the villa give it a distinctly mediaeval feel.
The property also boasts a Jacuzzi, a seemingly natural ‘grotto’ swimming pool built into surrounding stone, and its own private garden, and comes in total with almost 3,000m² of land on top of the villa, in one of France’s prime real estate locations.
The building is up for auction from Thursday (May 11) until Tuesday (May 16). It is listed at €12 million.
A €100,000 deposit is required before bidding.
You can find out more about the property via the auction site here.
3. Lyon city council taken to court over ‘totally unfair’ property tax increase
Lyon city council’s move to hike its property tax rate by 9% has come under fire.
The National Union of Property Owners (UNPI) Rhône branch has lodged a complaint with Lyon’s Administrative Court.
The taxe foncière hike was pushed forward by the Green majority on the city council.
It comes on top of a 7% national increase to the property values that are used -- in conjunction with local rates -- to calculate people's bills.
"The city council has not communicated any element that would allow the municipal councillors to understand this increase," said the union in a press release.
The decision is "totally unfair and contrary to equality before the tax system”, it added.
The president of the union, Sylvain Grataloup, said the increase would make the property tax of a building around 25% of its total rent value; this and other deductions mean around 40% of income from the property is immediately taken for taxes.
“This tax hike increases the financial burdens of owners, including the most modest, and for landlords is added to a loss of income following the rent control decided by the metropolis,” he said.
The union say they are “confident” of a positive decision in their favour regarding the case, and are expected to launch a petition this week to show support for the move.
Two weeks ago, the 2022 taxe foncière increase in Marseille was annulled – although at this stage, those who already paid it are not eligible for a refund. In March the tax saw a 25% increase in Grenoble.
4. Parisian districts ban new tourist accommodations
The French capital will ban ‘professional renters’ in the city from creating new long-term accommodation for tourists – but only in certain high-profile districts.
“Entire sectors of Paris will be banned from the creation of new furnished tourist accommodation because we consider that the supply is already very abundant and we are aiming for a spread and balance of establishments in Paris,” said deputy mayor Emmanuel Grégoire.
The districts where the ban is set to come into force are around the city centre, Grands Boulevards, the Champs-Élysées, the Canal St Martin and Montmartre.
There are 43,000 long-term furnished tourist units in Paris, but they are concentrated in touristic areas, leading to strains on resources and a disparity across the city.
The change will not affect those who rent their units short-term (up to 120 days maximum per year) via sites like Airbnb however, and neither will it introduce quantitative quotas for accommodation in specific areas.
The rule changes are the latest in a set of regulations set to limit the effects of long-term furnished tourist rentals in the city.
Since 2014 the city has required payment from a landlord if they choose to switch to full-term tourist letting, and last year restrictions were imposed on small shops being converted into tourist lets after one-in-eight shops in the city centre were converted between 2020 and 2022.
“Today, the regulatory tools are showing their first positive effects and we are witnessing a drop in the number of furnished tourist accommodation units declared,” said the deputy mayor.
There are also plans to tackle the conversion of offices into tourist accommodation – a bill on the subject will be discussed in the National Assembly next month.
Read also: Tax Airbnb rentals more, demand French MPs
5. Marseille threatened with fine over lack of social housing
The prefect of Marseille has warned the city council it could face a fine for failing to reach its social housing construction objective – but officials have struck back saying the figure was “unattainable.”
Prefect Christophe Mirmand wrote a letter in March to the council asking for an explanation over the lack of housing, between the period of 2020 – 2022.
“In comparison to the objectives of your municipality, I conclude that at least one of the three-year objectives set for this period has not been met,” said the letter, which has a two-month deadline for an official response before further action could be taken.
Out of the 7,674 social housing units (habitation à loyer modéré, often abbreviated to HLM) the city was obligated to build, only 38.2% were constructed.
This failure comes as more than 40,000 people are on social housing waiting lists in the city.
The city may have to pay a fine (although technically the money is levied in advance from government funding), and the prefect may even be given the authority to issue building permits while the shortfall persists.
More than 1,000 communes in France face a housing deficit, according to figures given by the team of Housing Minister Olivier Klein to Le Figaro, with almost 300 of these facing a “shortfall” of social housing construction – which increases the amount of money levied as punishment.
Deputy urban planner for the city, Mathilde Chaboche, highlights that the letter mentions “historical failure” by previous governments that have led to the situation, meaning the current city council is not entirely to blame.
“What is ironic is that it [the current government] sets us unattainable objectives for making up for the shortcomings of the previous right-wing government,” she said.
Printemps Marseillais, the left-wing coalition in control of the city council, said at the end of 2022 they wish to build 4,500 housing units per year, with 2,300 of them being “affordable,” whilst their election manifesto states they want to build 30,000 homes over a six-year period, or 5,000 homes per year “adapted to the income of Marseille’s inhabitants”.
6. Brittany island for sale
If you have ever dreamed of owning your very own island, there is one up for grabs in Brittany - for a cool €2.7 million.
The island, situated “in the heart of the Etel river” according to its online advert, is around 3.6 hectares in size and includes a 140m² stone house.
The island sits a few miles inland from the mouth of the river, in shallow water close to the shore – but is totally private.
The house on the island has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and all the mods cons you would expect of a house on the mainland – as well as a boat shed and pontoon.
These last two will be necessary, as a boat is needed to access the island.
The property lies close to the village of Saint-Cado (so you can still get your groceries even if you have to sail them back), and is only a 25-minute drive from the closest train station.
The island is also something of a birdwatcher’s paradise, with animals frequenting the island for nesting.
This all of course comes at a price, however, with the island listed at €2,782,000. The good news is that energy bills for the island will *only* cost around €2,000 per year.
If you have some spare cash lying around and want to make an offer, you can find the advert on Sotheby’s website here.