In France the government has decreed that many more ‘HLM’s (Habitations à Loyer Modéré or Homes at Moderate Rent) must be sold. But, although HLM are the equivalent to our council housing, there is no subsidy for the tenant – only first refusal on the purchase. Unsurprisingly the homes (almost invariably flats) are proving difficult to sell.
Typically HLM are the rather brutalist, rectangular blocks of apartments you see on the outskirts of French towns and currently comprise 16% of housing in France. Interestingly, they are financed by a savings scheme known as Livret A which was originally run by the Post Office, and the Caisse d’Epargne (Savings Bank) but now the banks themselves offer schemes. These operators collect in the money and then pass it on to the state in varying proportions in order to finance HLMs. Some organisations that get to run the resulting blocks of flats are private but are more usually public. As this system has been in place since the war France has much less of a housing crisis than the UK. But of course as members of the Euro, they are in trouble for their high deficit so raising money from state goods is theoretically ‘a good thing’ in that context.
Debt for Eurozone countries should be at 60% (whoever agreed to that?) of GDP whereas France’s is currently about 98% and hasn’t altered much in years. Macron’s arrival has, however, led to deficit reduction (unfortunately) being taken more seriously, but at least there is a sort of logic.
How different from the UK where our own government charlatans require sales of council housing without replacing them just on the whim of dogma. It is council sadism – clearly, if it isn’t hurting it isn’t working.
The recent UK budget told us nothing about sprinklers for skyscrapers but was full of a stamp duty give away for first time buyers, who somehow can countenance a price of half a million to get on the housing ladder. So I’m sure when they’re going to save a couple of thousand on stamp duty it will be a marvelous help. In effect it gives money from the state to property owners, whilst giving a few more inflationary puffs to the property bubble. This pampered austerity is in stark contrast to the the shocking conditions in the short film of Connect House:
HLMs may be ugly but at least they’re properly financed and weatherproof.