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French MPs face housing crisis due to lack of space

© Joël Saget, AFP | The National Assembly's 'Room of the Four Columns', 13 June 2006.

Text by Aude MAZOUE

Latest update : 2017-08-11

Some French MPs have started sleeping in their offices because of the lack of available housing in the National Assembly. The overcrowding is due to a surfeit of enthusiastic new MPs clocking in as never before.

During the past few weeks, the Palais Bourbon -- the seat of the National Assembly -- has started to look like a university town or even a campsite. Some members -- mostly from new president Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche (LREM) party -- have got used to sleeping in their office, huddled in a sleeping bag.

Sleeping in your office -- if it doesn't have a bed -- is actually banned. Thierry Solère, an MP responsible for running the Assembly, was obliged to call a point of order, reprimanding his colleagues for breaking safety regulations. “All the offices without beds have to be empty at night, particularly in the event of a fire," he said.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the root cause of this is a lack of space. The Assembly simply does not have enough space for all of its tenants to sleep there. Some have a desk with a bed and a bathroom. Others just have a simple office.

This is not normally a problem because MPs without accommodation can fall back on the Assembly hotel, which has 50 beds. But again, all the rooms have been taken – thanks to a deluge of new MPs frequently attending the National Assembly.

"Many LREM deputies, like me, want to be at the National Assembly all the time," new MP Catherine Osson told FRANCE 24. “It’s important to show up at the beginning of our mandate." Meanwhile, "many of us also stay in Paris because there’s not much going on in our constituencies during the summer".

'It’s not a stupid idea to sleep in your office for a few hours'

Of course, staying at a hotel is always a possibility. But this is obviously expensive in the long run. Despite getting a decent salary, some MPs lack the funds to cover the costs in advance. "I have had to personally take out a loan to run my campaign and to this day I no longer have my salary as a school principal. So in light of this, I do understand that some members are in a difficult situation," said Catherine Osson, one of the lucky MPs who get a bed in their office.

It is also convenient to sleep in the office. "It's common for sessions to finish at night, so it's not exactly a stupid idea to sleep in your office for a few hours when you’ve got to get up early tomorrow," she said.

Ensuring housing for MPs is important, because if you get it right, it saves them a lot of valuable time. "I was able to get housing in my office because I explained that I belonged to the finance commission [one of the most important committees]. I explained that I had to cut out transport time in order to do a good job,” Catherine Osson said.

Currently, there are two places where MPs can find housing. There is the Palais-Bourbon accomodation, and then there is other housing at 101 rue de l'Université, very close by. "The Palais-Bourbon accomodation is practical because it’s above the Assembly. But people tend to prefer the MPs' residency because it’s more modern," Osson said.

In the coming days however, the housing problem is not an issue, for the simple reason that the parliamentary holiday began on Wednesday 9 August.

This article was translated from the original in French. 

Date created : 2017-08-10


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