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#antimipim: Against Real Estate Speculation and Privatization of Public Property in the Paris Region

1 – A European anti-MIPIM Initiative:

For the past twenty-five years, Cannes has been the site of MIPIM (Marché International des Professionnels de l’Immobilier) which, as the name indicates, is a market for the sale of land, mostly public, for high-value real estate projects.

Meanwhile, since 1990 [nineteen ninety], the housing crisis has worsened across the planet:

  • Globally, one billion human beings have precarious shelter or live on the street;
  • In France, as assessed by the Abbé Pierre Foundation, the housing crisis is deepening, particularly in the Paris region.

MIPIM does not help humanity. It is the means for a small elite to enrich themselves at the expense of the huge majority of citizens. It leads to exclusion, the unequal distribution of urban space and an ever-increasing number of poorly-housed or homeless persons.

MIPIM has no goal but profit. It offers to speculators – the most powerful, the most well-supported by the banking sector, the most complicit with the political world – the opportunity to purchase land that is for the most part public. These lands are often sold as part of planned developments set in place by public authorities, or in huge bursts precipitated by real-estate fever.

Housing movements in fifteen European countries, brought together to coordinate for the right to housing and to cities, have decided to organize for the first time a campaign against the devastating effects of MIPIM, and to expose them to the public. The ultimate goal is to reach a turning point in housing policy, in multiple countries and especially in Europe, so that the right to housing and to cities is a right for everyone, and so that speculation – the source of extreme social and economic instability – gets contained and banished.
2 – In the Paris region, the politics of housing and development elevate the market and degrade the residents.

2.1 – Signs that the housing crisis is worsening

The Paris region, particularly in its most dense zones, has been subject to intense speculation, nourished and maintained by public actors from the construction, finance and housing sectors.

In 2012 [two thousand twelve], the Paris region saw 545 000 [five hundred and forty-five thousand] demands for social housing – one household out of six – while only around 50 000 [fifty thousand] social housing units were distributed.

Nearly one million households receive public assistance to pay their rent, which is almost one out of every three.

There were 31 000 [thirty-one thousand] judicial decisions supporting evictions in the Paris region, representing one quarter of the French total, and of the French evictions carried out by the police, nearly half were in our region.

41 000 [forty-one thousand] regional households, recognized and prioritized by the Law for the Enforceable Right to Housing – the Dalo Act of March fifth, 2007 [two thousand seven] – are still waiting for rehousing. 33 000 [thirty-three thousand] of them have been waiting for more than six months, which is the maximum delay allowed by the law.

Finally, and a sign of the deepening crisis, the last fifteen years have seen a resurgence of shantytowns in the Paris region – these had earlier been completely absorbed into the city – and the number of homeless persons who are being rejected by emergency shelter services is steadily rising.

2.2 – The housing shortage is at its peak

This shortage is fueling the soaring costs of property, real estate and rent:

  • There is an under-production of new homes as a result of the Malthusian housing policies of many municipalities. In 2013 [two thousand thirteen], 49 000 [forty-nine thousand] housing projects were started, of which less than 15 000 [fifteen thousand] were social housing.
  • This is far from the annual targets established by the Paris region, which called for 70 000 [seventy thousand] new homes, including 20 000 [twenty thousand] as social housing.
  • This is even further from the objectives set by François Hollande, which would amount to 100 000 [one hundred thousand] new homes per year, including 30 000 [thirty thousand] as social housing, if you count the Paris region as representing twenty percent of the French population. The amplitude of the additional needs arising from the housing crisis is not taken into account here.

 

3 – The public policy of the state, the region, the departments and the majority of municipalities in the Paris region have produced this unprecedented surge in the costs of property, real estate and rent.

  • In 2013 [two thousand thirteen], the average selling price of a new apartment in the region was €5900/m2 [five thousand nine hundred euros per square meter]. In 2000 [two thousand], it was €3000/m2 [three thousand euros per square meter]. Prices have doubled for no reason other than land speculation.
  • The average private rent in the region is €18.8/m2 [eighteen point eight euros per square meter], against less than €11/m2 [eleven euros per square meter] in 2000.
  • The price of land or buildings has tripled. It is in this sector that public actors are most to blame.

3.1 – The political blame they share:

  • The municipalities are the local controllers of planning policies and the delivery of construction permits. They have pushed up prices through their urban development policies by initiating operations in working-class neighbourhoods, limiting the construction of housing and, for the richest of them, blocking the creation of social housing. Many have preferred building offices rather than lodging. 3.8 million m2 [three point eight million square meters] of office space are vacant – this is equivalent to 60 000 [sixty thousand] homes, or almost two years of regional housing construction! Land transfer taxes were increased in order to reinforce development and gentrification policies, particularly in the richest communes, instead of fighting against the housing crisis by, for example, investing in the production of low-cost social housing.
  • The General Councils of the seven regional departments, particularly the richest among them, prefer to sell their property to the highest bidder, rather than to entrust them to public housing developers. Because they profit from the land transfer taxes, the councils are discouraged from fighting against speculation. The sales of the ancient quarters of the gendarmerie and the real estate of the Parisian hospitals are emblematic.
  • The Paris region: Except for financial support for the construction of social housing, the Paris region has not played its role as moderator and watchdog. Faced with real estate speculation and municipal development practices, they’ve found rising prices to be in their financial interest. We’ve got to keep an eye on a number of vacant schools, which may soon be fed to real estate speculators.
  • The state (along with the communes) is principally to blame for the situation.
    • On the one hand, since the middle of the last decade, the large-scale market-price sale of the properties and buildings of public administrations and enterprises has become a governmental priority. As a result, the housing crisis has worsened.
    • The state has also found a financial interest in the raising of land transfer taxes, allowing it to offload certain social responsibilities and duties onto the departmental governments (such as welfare provision and the Parisian public hospital system).
    • Finally, and most importantly, the state has encouraged the overheating of the real estate and property markets, using tax breaks to promote the purchase of new private housing by the rich, and refusing to regulate the market, which would break the real estate fever and lower rental prices.
    • Supporting developers and the real estate market has been a governmental priority, so that the 2009 [two thousand nine] economic crisis only marginally impacted real estate and rental prices (thanks to safety measures put in place by the Sarkozy government to protect developers and their financial backers). Prices have declined in many countries, but France has the highest among the rich countries, relative to household income.[1]
    • It should also be noted that since 2002 [two thousand two] the state, while reducing funding for social housing, has also done nothing to reorganize the region to make it more efficient against the housing crisis.
    • The most recent law, which created the metropolis of Paris, has been challenged by numerous politicians. The abilities and organization of this new municipal organization are so vague that they can only perpetuate the existing bad policies.
    • Greater Paris:
      • In order to streamline the organization of the region, and with the hope of pushing the city to the forefront of the world’s metropolises, several laws have been adopted that lay the groundwork for this new political stratum. However, the supervision and regulation of prices – especially for land – has only been marginally addressed.
      • This new body may fund and support the market, in other words, export Parisian prices to the periphery, with neither the aim nor the will to enforce the right to housing for all at an accessible price.
      • The corporation of greater Paris, which precedes this new metropolitan body, subcontracts the management of the region’s land to the AFTRP, the Technical Agency for Property in the Paris Region. This organization, which had its head office occupied  by the poorly-housed on January 11th [eleventh], have a heavy presence at MIPIM, because they sell so many public lands.

4 – The MIPIM are selling off our heritage. Enough!

What are the properties for sale in the Paris region? Basically, urban and peri-urban land:

  • Deindustrialized tracts of land;
  • Land in working-class neighbourhoods, opened up by urban planning (which is rare in rich areas);
  • Land and buildings sold by the government and public enterprises;
  • Protected peri-urban zones and urban agricultural lands that can be developed quickly, notably those managed by public land organizations similar to the AFTRP.

These lands are mostly public, owned by local authorities, municipalities, communes, departments, and state-controlled administrative enterprises. The AFTRP is one of the technical institutions that offers land to the highest bidder.

This is why we’ve come together to denounce our own public authorities, those we elected to serve us but instead send representatives to MIPIM:

  • They come to commodify our neighbourhoods, those in which we can still afford to live, and encourage rising rents and property prices. These policies chase us to the periphery, far from the economic centers where we can find employment.
  • They come to sell our public lands to speculators. We, the residents of the affected districts; the badly-housed and homeless, hit hard by costly housing and the recession; the tenants of public housing; youths and migrants forced to live in expensive, cramped and indecent housing; the middle classes who sink deeply into long-term debt to these same financiers to buy a home; we are being squeezed out of OUR living spaces. WE are the huge majority of the regional population, those who require decent, affordable, energy-efficient housing close to work.
  • And they come to trample our interests, the public interest that would explore all of the ways to keep people in their neighbourhoods, to construct lodgings for those who need them, to curb real estate and land speculation through dissuasive tax measures, and to build energy-efficient housing.

We therefore demand, from the Paris region but equally from all regions:

  • The immediate cessation of all public land sales to those in private real estate, especially those sharks, vulture and other predators who participate at MIPIM;
  • The allocation of land towards the construction of social housing, the development of emergency accommodations for the homeless and those who live in indecent and abnormal shelters, and support for those activities that generate employment in the general interest;
  • The transformation of vacant office space into social housing, principally in the areas west of Paris, which is mostly a corporate zone;
  • The taxation of profits coming from real estate and land speculation, and the use of these taxes to finance social housing;
  • The establishment of an emergency plan to create 50 000 [fifty thousand] vacant homes – through development and building requisition – to satisfy the legal right to housing, and to provide shelter for those who await relocation;
  • And that the new Metropolitan Paris political body be given the capacity to enforce these measures and to lower housing prices to a level compatible with the income of the majority of regional inhabitants.

Down with speculation!

Our neighbourhoods are not for sale!

A roof is a right!



[1] See the studies of Jacques Frigit on the subject, published by the Minister of Housing.

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