Abbé-Pierre foundation blasts Macron’s record on housing as more people find themselves homeless

A public housing estate in Saint-Ouen, north of paris. The Abbe- Pierre Foundation warns of a severe lack of public housing in France. © Geoffroy Van der Hasselt/AFP

In its annual report, the Abbé-Pierre Foundation paints a sombre picture of housing in France, with a decline in access to public housing, which it blames on what it claims are President Emmanuel Macron’s poor housing policies, exacerbated by the Covid crisis.


Some 300,000 people in France are homeless, twice as many as in 2014, according to the Foundation, which estimates 4.1 million people are precariously housed.

Social housing is at a low, with a drop in the number of people accessing it in 2020, and the lowest rate of public housing construction in 15 years, according to the Foundation’s 27th annual report.

Over the past five years, 2.2 million households have applied for social housing, with demand increasing five times faster than the population, and twice as fast as the numbers of units being built.

That means tens of thousands of people have been struggling to find affordable places to live. The Foundation warns of a coming housing crisis, with costs going up and public housing stock degrading.

Covid making things worse

“The Yellow Vest and Covid crises have been opportunities to support low-income households,” says the report, pointing to emergency beds opened during lockdowns, and increased financial aid.

But Covid has also increased inequalities, and there are “signs of a long-term destabilisation of a portion of the population - the most vulnerable”.

With lockdowns and restrictions closing administrations in 2020, and many services moved online, many people have lost their housing subsidies or other housing benefits.

Housing “was not given a particular priority in the economic recovery plan of autumn 2020”.

Housing and politics

The report puts the blame for the degradation on Macron and his government, which it says has not met its promises.

Some 104,000 public housing authorisations were allocated in 2021, below the 120,000 promised.

"In general, it seems as though housing was never a priority for this president,” says the report, published less than three months before the end of Macron's five-year term in office.

Besides the drop in the rate of public housing over the five year term in office, the report also points to changes implemented in how housing aid is calculated, leaving more people with less.

Macron and several presidential candidates on the left, including Socialist Anne Hidalgo, far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Fabien Roussel of the Greens and Christiane Taubira, were invited to speak to the Foundation Wednesday afternoon.

In an video exchange with the Foundation's director-general, Christophe Robert, Macron said the state met "86 percent of its goals", though only 67 per cent in large cities.

"I do not believe we went far enough" on creating more social housing, he admitted. 

He did hold up his record on creating emergency housing, most of which was allocated to migrants.

In the exchange, Macron also laid out proposals for a "universal activity revenue", combining housing aid with the current RSA minimum income for the unemployed, which would involve a massive reform of social benefits in general.

Abbe-Pierre's solutions

The Foundation provides several solutions to the problems in the report, which it calculates will cost an extra 10 billion euros a year.

To address housing cost increases, it proposes stricter and broader rent control and a fine for “abusive” rents and for expensive real-estate transactions. It also suggests a better control of seasonal rentals, to keep rents down.

For the poorest, the report insists on more inspections of public housing and sanctions against insalubrious conditions. It also calls for an end to electricity cuts for those who cannot pay their bills in their primary residence, and more help for energy renovations, to reduce electricity costs.

The Foundation would like to see France spend two percent of its gross domestic product on housing, as it did in 2012, compared to just 1.63 per cent in 2020.

(with wires)