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Paris’s poor struggle to find decent homes

by : Kerstin Gehmlich
Sunday July 24, 2005 - 13:53
5 comments

By Kerstin Gehmlich

JPEG - 24.2 kb

PARIS. For the last year, Fatima Louarn and her family have shared a tiny Paris hotel room because they could find nowhere else to live. Now she is pregnant and the owner wants to kick her out.

About 8,000 people live in shabby hotels in Paris, often sharing a bathroom with dozens of other people, and living off sandwiches because they are not allowed to cook in their rooms.

"It’s not a life. You feel like you’re in prison," says Louarn, a 37-year-old unemployed Moroccan who shares a room with her son and sick husband, partially paid for by housing aid.

"Whenever we go to see friends, he doesn’t want to leave. He knows this is not home. It hurts."

More than 100,000 families from modest or poor backgrounds were looking for social housing in the capital last year, up from some 85,000 10 years ago, but only around 12,000 homes were allocated in 2004, according to Paris city authorities.

The remaining tens of thousands of apartment hunters, many of them immigrants, stay with friends, live in hotels, squats or apartments which are tiny or in an appalling state.

The fate of these tenants came into the open in April, when a fire in a hotel used by immigrants killed 24 people, half of them children. Many victims were asleep when the fire began and tried to save their children by throwing them out of windows.

Deputy Paris Mayor Jean-Yves Mano says the city has been trying to convert such hotels into proper social housing, buying up 30 hotels over the past few years. But given the dire housing situation, the guest houses are still needed, he said.

"We must keep them as a welcoming zone for certain groups of the population, responding to the urgent need for housing," Mano said, adding many came to Paris in search of a job. "Often, the place might not be great, but the main thing is to have a roof."

HOUSE PRICE SURGE

Mano says that with unemployment and social insecurity rising, many people cannot find an apartment on the private market because rents have risen sharply over the past few years.

French apartment prices have increased by about 15 percent over the last year alone, data shows.

"There’s a strong correlation in the rise in apartment prices and the increase in people asking for social housing," says Mano.

He says the city has created some 14,500 new social homes over the past five years — still not enough.

Living space in Paris is so scarce that landlords can rent out the tiniest spaces — such as the so-called "chambres de bonne," former maids’ rooms, often without kitchen or bathroom, usually tucked away at the top of staircases under the roof.

The conservative government caused a controversy this spring when it suggested that chambres de bonne measuring just 75 square feet should be allowed to be rented out, cutting the minimum size from 97 square feet at the moment.

It withdrew the proposal after protests from social groups and housing associations.

"There’s limits," says social worker Sofia Bounouri, who works for Abbe Pierre, a group helping poor people find homes.

"It’s essential to have a roof. But at what price? It weighs on you psychologically if you live in a tiny cell," she says.

"The other day, a man told me he lived in a 3 square meter (32 square foot) apartment. I congratulated him on still being able to smile and talk like a normal human being."

GOVERNMENT UNDER FIRE

The French government is under pressure to do more for society’s worst off after many voters said they rejected the European Union constitution in May because of concerns over unemployment and their general economic outlook.

Social Affairs Minister Jean-Louis Borloo already promised last year to create some 500,000 social homes over five years.

New Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who was appointed after the EU vote, noted in his first policy speech that many people had "very big difficulties" finding an affordable home.

But Abbe Pierre says that without new measures and funds, Borloo’s plan will only be realized "to 60 percent at best."

"As the housing situation undergoes an unprecedented crisis...the first announcements of Dominique de Villepin’s government show that housing is not among the priorities," the group said.

Bounouri says finding social housing in Paris is "like a lottery," with some people waiting for more than a decade.

Matenin Kone, a 30-year-old mother of three, says she has been trying to find a home for three years.

"We live in a squat now. The walls are damp, the windows don’t shut. The children have nowhere to play," she says.

Louarn, who holds a pharmacy degree from Morocco, says she is willing to leave Paris to find a home.

"I always wanted to go far in life. But I realize now that sometimes the conditions are just not right," she says. (Reuters)

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20050721...



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> Paris’s poor struggle to find decent homes
Sunday July 24 - 23:29 - Posted by 27137ac02089d7f2...

The poor are coming to Europe, because U.S.A. is not reachable for them. The so called "free market" which gives the wrong impression about freedom does no longer provide enough services or income for countries, so they could possible support their citizens. Instead we get phony answers and fear spreading messages.
The political elite is out of control.




> Paris’s poor struggle to find decent homes
Tuesday July 26 - 20:06 - Posted by b6568576db21e1f6...

Supply always meets demand (for a price). If there is a housing shortage in Paris, it is almost certainly the fault of bad government policy. In NYC, there is a housing shortage caused by government-imposed "rent control", which artificially sets prices below market value. Whenever an asset is artificially priced below market value, it vanishes. It happens every time. It’s entirely predictable.

The French should throw off their socialist shackles and let people be people. No wonder the high-rise slums into which the French herd economic refugees have become cesspools of jihad ideology. You’re penned into a subsidized slum, put on the dole, and forbidden to work. What else are you going to do with your day?




> Paris’s poor struggle to find decent homes
Friday July 29 - 15:50 - Posted by 6fd1da8bc3625a90...

Fatima Lourma should be given a stipend , income from France’s social services and made to stay in her country of origin. Europe is not a playground for indigent people from other parts of the globe. There are serious social problems in europe, unemployment, youths facing an empty tomorrow, corruption, as if these problems were not enough we must also expend energy to make room ,board ,lodging and pleasures galore for people like Fatima ?
With a few hundred Euros a month Fatima can live like a queen in her country or origin and become impregnated as often as she likes. We pay taxes don’t we ? I definitely don’t want my taxes to contribute to the importation of human suffering and misery.




> Paris’s poor struggle to find decent homes
Friday July 29 - 19:12 - Posted by cb9c5991fe352740...

It is truly sad that as we all see the excess the few have, the masses have none. The heart of the problem lies in overpopulation however. To think that if everyone was granted a life that was enjoyable and had community (connection) things would be great, is naive. In nature if there is plenty of food for a species the population expands, then levels off to be in line with the availability of food. What? we’re not animals? When will the world do something about the real issue. We neuter our dogs and cats as to not be overrun with feral pets. Our race is a virus, burning out the natural resources of this planet. The greeks cut all the trees down for fuel. We are no different. I’m vegetarian, feel everyone’s pain, tell only the truth, and think we need to rediscover the tribe and get connected to others. I build homes, and the cost of materials is minimal. The housing shortage is political. Someone benifits financially from this and every other shortage. It’s the goverment regulations that prevent you from having space (we need to go back to having commons) and privatize everything (now water, a necessity for life).Zorro




> Paris’s poor struggle to find decent homes
Friday July 29 - 23:30 - Posted by cbfbbbe2d8aa578a...

"It is truly sad that as we all see the excess the few have, the masses have none."

Not true. In the West, most of "the masses" have electricity, food, access to transportation, medical care, and running water (not to mention color TV with cable or satellite as well as air conditioners, if they live in warmer climes). Our rich are richer than the rich in the Third World, and our poor are richer than the poor in the Third World. The problem is not the difference between the rich and the poor, it’s poverty.

"The heart of the problem lies in overpopulation however."

Who are you proposing we get rid of, and how?

"We neuter our dogs and cats as to not be overrun with feral pets."

You propose neutering the Indians? What about Brazilians, Indonesians, British, Bulgarians, Americans, Somolis, Turks, Egyptians and French?

"Our race is a virus, burning out the natural resources of this planet."

Speak for yourself.

"I’m vegetarian"

. . . so was Hitler . . .

"we need to rediscover the tribe"

That isn’t doing anyone much good in Somolia.

"The housing shortage is political."

Correct—politicians trying to impose their will on market forces.

"Someone benifits financially from this and every other shortage."

Right—homebuilders like yourself provide a valuable service, through which they earn their daily bread, while those without homes end up with somewhere to go when it rains. It’s a win-win.

"It’s the goverment regulations that prevent you from having space"

. . . if you’re talking about real estate taxes, I’m with you 100% . . .

"(we need to go back to having commons)"

commons result in what economists call "the tragedy of the commons"—when something of value isn’t owned by anyone, no one has an interest in protecting it. That’s why fish stocks are being rapidly depleted around the world.

"and privatize everything (now water, a necessity for life).Zorro"

Zorro, I actually agree with you about water. You used to be able to get a cup of ice water at a restaurant or gas station at no charge, but that’s not true anymore. I don’t deny the RIGHT of these private citizens to sell water as a commodity, but I don’t think it’s very decent of them.






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