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France

Winter ban on evictions brings temporary relief to crisis-stricken tenants

Video by Alexandra RENARD

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-11-03

France’s annual winter ban on tenant evictions began on November 1 and will go on until March 15. The measure guarantees some 1.8 million families who struggle to pay their rent an albeit temporary roof over their heads.

November 1 marked the beginning of France’s annual winter ban on housing evictions, which ends on March 15. The measure is iconic of France’s highly protective housing laws, which make it particularly difficult for landlords to evict tenants who can’t pay their housing bills.

Charitable groups representing homeless people hail the measure as one which protects tens of thousands of crisis-stricken families but stress that the total number of evictions in France rose by 150 percent in the past 10 years to reach a total of 11,294 registered evictions in 2008.

On Saturday, the rights group “Jeudi Noir” (Black Thursday) squatted an empty private townhouse on the elegant Place des Vosges in central Paris to mark the beginning of the winter ban and protest the number of disused real estate space in the French capital.

“It’s scandalous that properties like this remain empty for years”, a protester told Agence France Presse. “Sleeping here, even temporarily, could get a homeless person off the cold streets,” he added.

According to the Abbé Pierre Foundation, named after a French Catholic priest who devoted his life to securing better housing conditions for poor families, there are more than 1.8 million families in France who struggle to pay their housing bills. At least 500,000 of them owe one or several belated monthly rent payments.

2009, "annus horribilis"

A group of 30 charities specialised in housing difficulties issued a joint statement claiming that “the economic crisis, by depriving over 600,000 people in France of their jobs, has made the living conditions of many families much more difficult”. In June 2009, the Abbé Pierre foundation set up a crisis call centre to help people threatened with eviction.

The housing situation is made worse by the real estate crisis which paralysed the construction sector in 2009. “There were less than 300,000 new construction sites for homes begun in 2009, against 368,000 in 2008 and 435,000 in 2007,” housing specialist Michel Mouillart told AFP last week. “Real estate construction has reached its lowest point since 1998,” he added.

Xavier Emmanuelli, president of the committee charged with monitoring the so-called Dalo law that allows those who are not given access to social housing despite fitting the required criteria to sue the French state, warned the government that it “isn’t being followed”. In practice, however, the implementing the law - adopted in March 2007 - is almost impossible.

Meanwhile, rights groups representing travellers or gypsies are pushing for the winter ban on evictions to apply to families in mobile homes and trailer parks. Gypsies are regularly forced to change campsites at very short notice, and often live in terrible sanitary conditions.

Date created : 2009-11-02

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