Affordable housing... for whom?

By Audrey SomnardLex Kleren Switch to French for original article

Affordable housing is hard to sell. At the end of January, the government presented its "housing support measures" in an attempt to stem the haemorrhage. This measure widened access to more households, but didn't bring down housing prices. So can we still talk about affordable housing?

Until now, the waiting lists have been endless. There were so many applicants for affordable housing that the supply could not keep up, so one had to be patient. It has to be said that, in the past, this was a bargain. People at the start of their careers who met the income ceilings while accessing bank loans, bought properties at a lower price than in the private market… only to sell it a few years later with a good capital gain, as the property market has been rising steadily for over twenty years. State-sponsored financial operations of this kind have come officially to an end with the widespread use of long leases (buyers rent the land on which their homes are built for a modest sum, for a period of 99 years), with the Affordable Housing Act of 7 August 2023. This is an attempt to keep affordable housing in the hands of the State. As a result, buyers will no longer be able to make financial gains with their home. A quid pro quo for a price that was supposed to be well below the private market. But is this still the case?

All you have to do is look at the advertisements offered by the Société nationale de habitations à bon marché (SNHBM), the Fonds du logement or the communes (the three public developers approved by the State). There are a lot of them. SNHBM director Guy Entringer confirms that he has around a hundred affordable housing units for sale but no takers – a first: "The situation is very difficult, whereas before we had waiting lists. We never advertised, but we're going to have to do so now, to reach households that didn't think they were eligible." The problem is that house prices are often at odds with the income ceilings that have been imposed up until now: "The majority of applications are turned down", he admits. These households are faced with an insoluble problem: if they meet the income conditions, then the bank won't let them.

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