The following lecture was given at the annual congress of UIPI, Union Internationale de la Propriété Immobilière, in Liège, Belgium, in december 2009.
A French Abstract / Un résumé en Français est accessible via Objectif Eco.
Simultaneous housing shortages and vacant homes
The incredible outcome of misguided state's anti-property policies
Liège, dec. 9, 2011
I've always heard and read, during my life, that "Housing is in a crisis". When we look at historical records of how the situation of housing is perceived in the press, "housing" seems to be inseparable from "crisis".
And, by the way, in my living country, it's not difficult to see that this crisis is real.
What "bad housing" means for real world families
According to official sources or Non Profit Organizations, in France, about 700 000 households have either no home, or "precarious" ones. Many of them use derelict caravans or Mobil homes. For the least lucky, cavities in bridge pillars or carton boxes on the sidewalks are common places for sleeping.
If the exact figures of people in such poor conditions are difficult to grab, sharper statistics released by our national statistic office (INSEE) show that about 2.5 million individuals (about 1 million households) live in a housing unit presenting "severe problems" of obsolescence, heating or water adduction, overcrowding, or all problems together. Another 3.5 million individuals are experiencing more moderate problems of discomfort or slight overcrowding.
For sure, if these people were solvent, there would be a huge demand for new homes, either for rent, or for purchase. But these people, at current market conditions, can't find homes matching their needs.
On the other side, we're told that there are too many vacant homes in France, and some people say that if these vacant homes were properly used, a good part of the housing crisis could be solved. We'll see further that this predication is a bit overrated. But of course, from this statement, many people suggest that vacant homes should be subject to a "special legislative action" to force owners to bring them either on the market, or, even worth, to occupiers without any market process.
Before examining what diverse NGOs are proposing, let's see what reality do the "vacant homes" phenomenon covers.