‘Parisian, go home’: Gentrification triggers backlash in Bordeaux
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The mayor of the southwestern city of Bordeaux has expressed his “shame” as residents angered by surging property prices take it out on moneyed newcomers from the French capital.
In recent weeks, signs reading, “Parisien rentre chez toi” (Parisian, go home) have reportedly appeared in parts of the city, accompanied by pictures of the brand new high-speed trains that have cut the journey from the capital to just two hours.
Shops run by newcomers have been targeted by graffiti reading “F**k the rich” and slamming the city’s “gentrification”, prompting Mayor Alain Juppé to threaten legal action and state that Bordeaux “is and will remain a welcoming city”.
Parisian-bashing is hardly uncommon in France, a highly centralised country where residents of the so-called “province” (everywhere outside Paris) often feel neglected by the French capital’s elites. But the fallout from the latest row has surprised many commentators – not least because hardly anyone has seen the actual signs, nor other evidence of anti-Parisianism, in the streets of Bordeaux.
On social media, amused commentators have noted that some of Bordeaux’s boulangeries charge significantly more for a pain au chocolat when customers fail to use the local term “chocolatine”. Others have mocked the suggestion that Parisians are to blame for gentrifying a city that was already regarded as one of France’s most “bourgeois”.
But the humorous comments conceal mounting frustration over the very real transformations underway in the south-western city, known around the world for the wine produced in the surrounding region.
Bordeaux’s beauty, sunny weather and proximity to the sea have made it a magnet for Parisians seeking to relocate. They account for a large share of the 12,000 yearly arrivals that have been recorded in recent years in this city of 250,000 inhabitants (750,000 when counting the suburbs).
This helps explains why Bordeaux has the fastest-growing property prices of any major city in France.
As a result, students and lower and middle-income families are increasingly being priced out of the city’s traditional working-class neighbourhoods, such as newly renovated Saint-Michel, where many of the graffiti and anti-Parisian signs have been found.
Compounding the housing problem, the number of lodgings offered on the short-term rental site Airbnb has surged by 62% in the last six months, according to the local “Airbnb Observatory”, set up by a member of the Socialist opposition in the municipal council.
New rules limiting the number of days a home can be rented on Airbnb are set to kick in next year, but critics say more forceful measures are needed now.
Elisa Révillon, the deputy head of the largest student union (Unef), told AFP the development of Airbnb had resulted in a “very urgent and very violent situation for students”, some of whom are forced to “sleep in their cars” or in “30-square-metre apartments housing six”.
Her union has appealed to the city’s inhabitants to help house 1,000 students who are still without a home more than one month into term.
Punching above its weight
The “Parisian go home” row took a political turn on Wednesday as the former minister and Socialist lawmaker for Bordeaux, Michèle Delaunay, accused the mayor of having “no housing policy to moderate the surge in property prices, and thus damaging the city’s attractiveness”.
Jean-Louis David, the deputy mayor for urban planning, hit back by stating that Juppé’s administration had “no intention of slowing down simply because some people dislike our way of making the city prosper”.
In a satirical post on Twitter, the Bordeaux Liberation Front Against Parisianism (FLBP), which claims to have some 6,000 followers, accused the mayor of trying too hard to lure Parisians and other outsiders while abandoning the city’s native population.
“For two years you have neglected your children,” reads the open letter addressed to the city. “You do not even offer a roof to all of those who come to study at your universities. You are relegating your families to live forever in cardboard houses 30km from the centre, so that your latest conquerors can take even more selfies in your worldly company.”
Referring to Bordeaux’s much-vaunted recent regeneration, which has turned it into one of France’s most desirable locations, the letter suggests the city is punching above its weight and at risk of losing its very identity.
“You are trying to play a role that does not suit you and we can see it,” it reads. “You are a big city for the south-west, part bourgeois and also part redneck, one has to admit. […] But you are not a European capital and definitely not a global capital. To pretend you are is ridiculous.”