Unlike the rest of France, Mosa is desperate to keep its flats empty

This department, which is a victim of rural exodus and deindustrialization, is dominated by the empty house syndrome.

Broken windows, cracked walls and condemned mailboxes: in many municipalities of the Meuse, almost one in five houses is empty, making this rural area one of the most affected by the plague of empty houses. If the lack of housing throughout the country makes life difficult for first-time buyers, in this department, which is a victim of rural exodus and deindustrialization, the empty house syndrome dominates.

“These are ruins,” breathes Christian Simon, in his small street in the center of Vaucouleurs, a town with less than 2,000 inhabitants, in the 1960s there were almost 3,000.

The house next to this fifty-year-old has been abandoned for years: “It has been bought and then resold several times. People buy and leave when they realize all the work that needs to be done,” he explained to AFP. . In this alley very close to the town hall, there are at least three empty houses, according to him. One would be bought by the municipality, like the other “unsellable” buildings.

One in five homes was empty in 2020

Although there are a few “For Sale” signs around town, often on homes that need major work, many have cobwebs on the windows, duct tape on mailboxes and broken shutters. According to INSEE, one in five homes was empty in 2020 in Vaucouleurs. In the 30 years he has spent in the town, Christian Simon has seen its evolution: “There used to be five bakeries, now there’s only one left. And when the owner retires, he’s sure to find a buyer. There’s only one cafe left.

About ten kilometers away, Commerce, population 5,800, maintains a dynamic town center with shops, banks, insurance companies, cafes and restaurants. But even there, we see abandoned houses. “There are those that have been empty for ten years” in the city center, confides a server who requests anonymity. “Everywhere you turn your head and you see these sad, abandoned houses.” Commerce had almost 15% vacant housing in 2020, according to INSEE. “People prefer to build or buy” houses that are “normal” and without outside work, insists Roland, a resident who does not want to give his name.

He also noticed the decline of the population over time, due to the disappearance of the “barracks and foundries” of the Employment area. In Saint-Mihiel, 4,000 souls, the observation is the same: “They are often large family houses”, emphasizes Pierre, 61 years old, who has always lived in the town. These accommodations, often located near historic or listed monuments, are subject to “permits, exemptions, construction” procedures that have been canceled by the neighbors. “He doesn’t rent, he comes from time to time but he doesn’t do anything with it.”

Poorly insulated home?

In Mosa, 12.2% of houses are empty, compared to 9.4% in the Greater East and 8.2% in France, the Department of Territorial Management (DDT) has stated. “The job belongs to inefficient housing” that is energetically and poorly insulated, Rachel Friedrich Meuse, a real estate agent in southern Meuse, told AFP. And if the sales market is “very complicated” because of the “rates”, in Mosa, “we lack housing” to rent.

According to DDT, subsidies, but also restrictive resources, such as taxes on empty homes, are all possible remedies. Also, the communities have available data on empty houses and the possibility to contact the owners. The Council of the Department has been providing aid to the National Housing Agency (ANAH) for about fifteen years. He is also a member of the “Action against empty houses” association, Francis Favé, councilor of the department responsible for housing and the mayor of Vaucouleurs, explained to AFP.

“There is a mismatch between supply and demand”, these accommodations “no longer match today’s standards”, for Mr Favé. Therefore, in the rehabilitation of some houses, a policy of “deconstruction” of other houses is necessary, and “ventilation of urban areas”, according to him.

And if the fight against vacancy is decisive, “it is essential to guarantee the quality of occupied housing”, DDT recalled. Francis Favé predicts that the upcoming ban on renting the homes that consume the most energy risks increasing this space even more.

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