French bill seeks to ban new second homes - where and how?

The proposed law aims to ‘remedy imbalances in the rental market’ but would affect many popular destinations including on the coast, Alps, Pyrénées, and Corsica

Housing in Le Barcarès in the Pyrénées-Orientales is 80% second homes
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A parliamentary bill, already approved by the French Senate, seeks to reserve certain areas of popular tourist towns to main homes only, effectively banning second homes.

The proposed law aims to “remedy imbalances in the rental market”, it states. If passed, it could ban the construction of second homes in certain areas that already have many.

The bill’s second article states that “planning regulations may delimit sectors in which all new housing construction is exclusively for use as a principal residence”. This means that any housing not being used as a main home will be banned.

The bill initially said this should be allowed in any area with a housing stock of at least 20% second homes, but Senators reduced this threshold even further, to 15%, by a large majority.

The text also aims to set aside areas for younger people looking for main homes, to prevent all homes going to wealthier older people and to prevent the decline of local services, including schools.

The bill was presented by Renaissance MP for Finistère Annaïg Le Meur, and PS MP of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques Iñaki Echaniz, and was debated in the Senate on May 21. It is now set to pass before a cross-party commission for further consideration. 

It is not certain that it will become law.

Areas with significant second home stock

If the law were to come into force, it would affect many already-popular areas in which the housing stock is already significantly above this threshold. This includes most coastal areas, those in the Alps, the Pyrénées, and Corsica. 

The commune with the national record for the number of second homes is Germ, a small commune in the Hautes-Pyrénées. Its percentage is 97%.

Other areas with a significant percentage include: 

  • Le Barcarès (Pyrénées-Orientales): 80%
  • Cabourg (Calvados): 80%
  • Carnac (Morbihan): Over 70% 
  • Le Touquet (Pas-de-Calais): Over 70%

It comes after many local authorities have already sought to discourage second homes by levying extra taxes on owners. Similarly, the taxe d’habitation has been abolished for main homes, but is still in force for second home owners.

This new bill claims that these existing measures are not enough to put a significant dent in second home ownership in the most popular areas, hence the need for harsher rules.

Constitutional concerns

MP Mr Echaniz has responded to questions about whether the proposed bill is constitutional, given the importance of property in French law.

He said: “Consultations prior to the vote led us to believe that the 20% threshold was coherent and balanced, in line with the case law of the Constitutional Council. This [newly-proposed] 15% threshold will be assessed before it is examined by the joint committee.”

Mr Echaniz has admitted that the text is “experimental”, and that it may need “adjusting” in future. He also said that some questions still remain unanswered, including what will happen if properties that are initially built as main homes are later resold as second homes. 

Measures to address that issue could include a law to prevent the change of use (from main home to second home) within a certain number of years.