Paris to buy flats for poorer tenants

PARIS marie is set to buy hundreds of flats in the centre of the city when they come on the market so it can introduce more social housing into districts which have poor supply.

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Using its droit de préemption urbain – a legal right to buy properties that are up for sale or if needed for city projects – the mairie has earmarked 257 apartment blocks of more than 8,000 flats in the 2nd, 10th, 11th, 12th, 17th, 18th and 20th arrondissements on the Right Bank plus the 15th arrondissement on the Rive Gauche.

Previously the city has bought complete buildings to create social housing but has set a budget of e850million to buy both buildings and individual flats if they have tenants on modest incomes.

Deputy mayor Ian Brossat said the move allowed the city to move closer to its legal target of having 25% of social housing by 2025 while preserving the character of districts and protecting tenants who could otherwise lose their homes when the flat was sold.

With 148,000 people on its housing list, the demand is a priority for the city. Soaring property prices averaging e8,230 per square metre have made flats too expensive for many people to buy so 62% of residents rent.

As flats come on the market they are bought by more affluent people, changing the social mix of the building and wider neighbourhood.

Paris has already made some moves towards protecting this by buying empty shops to encourage bakers and other local traders to start up.

The droit de préemption covers zones of the city with low levels of social housing but high demand. More than 100 of the properties concerned are in the 18th arrondissement which contains Montmartre and the Sacré Coeur.

It allows the city to step in and preempt the sale by taking over a purchase after a price has been agreed. The mairie can only do so if it has a specific urban improvement project in mind, in this case to increase social housing.

The notaire will notify the mairie of the sale and the city has two months to decide if it will step in and make an offer.

Mr Brossat said that in the vast majority of cases the city would pay the price agreed but property professionals fear that it will start to pay less, perhaps by as much as 10% of 15%, which would severely impact the market in these streets.

In these cases the property owner can refer it to the juge des expropriations who will work with France Domaine to fix a price at the market rate.

Only flats that are put up for sale will be concerned by the possible use of droit de préemption and Mr Brossat said the city would not buy every flat that came up for sale as some were the owners’ main homes and others did not have tenants on low incomes.

In all, it is not expected that more than a few hundred flats will be bought this way as there is low property turnover in the areas concerned.

Mr Brossat said mayor Anne Hidalgo wanted to protect tenants who “could be thrown out of their homes if a flat is sold”.

Although buyers cannot put tenants out of the property until their lease ends these generally last for three years for unfurnished flats.

Tenants could then find themselves joining the 148,000 people looking for social housing.

The project will not bring any extra properties on to the social housing list but by permitting tenants to remain in the flats would maintain the social mix of the areas, rather than city centre living only being possible for the well-off.