When we say unworthy habitat (that is, any housing situation that violates human dignity, according to the Criminal Code), we immediately think of the mediatized figure “sleep shop», a landlord who takes advantage of his tenants and rents accommodation that is usually unlivable at exorbitant prices. But, as the Abbé Pierre Foundation points out in its 29th report on the state of poor housing in France, which will be presented on February 1, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Abbé Pierre’s appeal, it is not limited to this number of substandard housing. Half of the houses that are worthless belong to the owners. “We go beyond the visible, beyond the simple denunciation of slums. It is not a Manichean process, it is slower to resolve“says Manuel Domergue, director of studies at the Foundation. So we can spot unworthy housing forms hidden behind beautiful facades, for example, or isolated in rural areas.
The Abbé Pierre Foundation takes the example of elderly people whose homes have been destroyed and farmers forced to live in dilapidated houses like two farmer brothers Pierre and Emmanuel from Tarn-et-Garonne. Part of their roof fell into the living room. Two men balanced pallets to support the floor and the ceiling of one room was supported by props. At the age of 50, the two men grew up on their parents’ farm, which they later took over. They work outside all day and have little time at home. These French are part of this invisible unfit place of residence.
Shipwrecked from acquisition
Also, the Foundation collected the testimony of a young couple of first buyers aged 24 and 32, who bought an old barn in Brittany for 36,000 euros. When they moved there in 2016, the wind blew through the door and window frames, the roof was not insulated and the heat from the living room’s wood burning stove escaped quickly. “We also came here because the houses were cheaper, our budget is very limited. We have the opportunity to grow a vegetable garden on the land, that is also our goal, to aim for autonomy with the least possible expenses.…”, admits the young couple who underestimated the extent of the work to be done. The foundation speaks “shipwrecked by purchase», who had no choice but to opt for low-cost housing compared to the cost of real estate. The couple had to sleep in a tent for a year while starting the work. “First time buyers put in what they can», explains Manuel Domergue.
Housing also sometimes affects social housing, although it saves more than private housing. “The average quality of social housing is higher but social owners are not immune», emphasizes Manuel Domergue. Half of the reports received in Lyon, however, are about social housing. In total, the State classifies 420,000 homes in the territory, and as for the Foundation, France would prefer to have 600,000 homes, even if it is aware of the fragility of estimates on this matter.
Not just old homes
Why such a difference in appreciation? “The indicator used is that of private stock that has no value. Abroad, a minimum of 110,000 unworthy dwellings (i.e. 12%), unworthy social housing and premises unsuitable for housing must also be added out of almost 900,000 dwellings (i.e. 12%), not only real homes and 100,000. the people Living in improvised accommodation according to the population census», explains Manuel Domergue. The treatment of bad housing is therefore not limited to a park of old housing that needs to be renovated, but also temporary housing such as bungalows and mobile homes. “In reality, it is a phenomenon that is constantly transforming, pushing new segments of the housing stock to dignity.. It is the eternal cask of the Danaids, a tap that is always open“, he lamented.
The Foundation considers the fight against poor housing to be a poor relation of public action. In recent years, the National Housing Improvement Agency (Anah) has given 13,000 to 15,000 grants per year in the fight against poor housing, in 2021 there are 13,752 non-sanitary orders in force, 578 official works were carried out by the prefect or council in 2022 and 2,216 security orders were registered in 2021.This means that at the current rate it would take about forty years to eradicate the simple park of poor housing.“, he complained.
“To govern is to live your people first and the President of the Republic did not talk about poverty», recalled Christophe Robert Abbé Pierre Foundation’s principal representative. The only positive point of the foundation is the bill on poor housing that is currently under consideration.. The National Assembly has just approved a bill that provides for tougher penalties against slum dwellers. The Senate, on the other hand, will examine it. The Government seems to be interested in the issue of poor housing. Prime Minister Gabriel Attal stated this Wednesday in front of the Senate: “Decent housing is the foundation of a decent life. We will work on it“.