There are 800 agencies that manage public housing throughout France, 282 of which are OPH (Office Public de l'Habitat ) agencies. These agencies manage four million public housing units (i.e., 16% of the number of French primary residences), 90% of all housing apartment buildings. 4,5 million families-i.e., 11 million people-live in public housing throughout France (figures/source: Union).
Situation in Paris
Of the 1,160,000 primary residences in Paris, approximately 18% are public housing apartments (source: Aorif). The demand for public housing in Paris structurally exceeds availability. More than 110,000 applications for public housing are pending.
There are two housing markets in Paris:
- the public housing market, made up of a continually growing public, ranging from extreme poverty levels to middle income
- the open market, which, as a result of the exorbitant prices in Paris, only concerns the well-off population.
Because of the shortage of public housing, people with steady, but modest, income and, in particular, people who make up the city's population and work there, experience difficulties in living there.
A Few Features of the Background of Public Housing in France
1. In France, public housing is a public service for which the Government determines the major public policies and provides funding. That public service is handled by public agencies (OPH), private companies (ESH), and cooperatives (SEHM).
For decentralization purposes, the Government may delegate its authority to a local public body.
2. The rights and duties relating to carrying out this public service function are defined by the law. They include:
- The right to remain on the premises
An apartment is granted to an applicant if, on the date that the apartment is granted, his or her income is equal to or less than means-tested limits.
Should the income of a tenant increase over time and exceed such limits, he or she will be entitled to remain in the apartment. A survey, carried out among public housing tenants each year, enables those whose income exceeds the limits to be identified. An additional rental charge is then applied to such individuals, which, in light of the specificity of the Parisian housing rental market, does not appear sufficiently dissuasive to encourage people to move.
- Sharing of risk by HLM entities. These entities are obligated to pay contributions to another entity whose role is to protect the tenant in the event its public housing landlord defaults-particularly financial default.
3. Public housing landlords may also have government-sponsored programs that help tenants buy the property.
Paris Habitat-OPH was founded in 1914 and it is the largest public housing agency in France.
In its capacity as a public housing agency, it comes under private law accounting and is required to produce balanced financial statements. Nonetheless, it is subject to the Government Contracts Code in terms of organizing competitive tenders.
Paris Habitat-OPH is an agency under the supervision of the Government which control its management. It is furthermore the privileged tool of its reference collectivity, in this case the city of Paris.
Paris Habitat-OPH manages more than 120,000 public housing units-that is, 50% of the capital city's total public housing. It is the no. 1 builder and landlord in Paris.
Paris Habitat-OPH operates in three areas-housing development, real estate management of the housing developed, and is a stakeholder in development policies for the City of Paris.
- An overview of the Agency
One-third of Paris Habitat-OPH's Board of Directors consists of representatives of the City of Paris; another one-third is made up of housing and social action specialists designated by the Paris's municipality council. There is also the state representing prefect of Paris. tenant representatives, and of labor and management. The Chairman of Paris Habitat-OPH is elected, by requirement.
In charge of housing to the Paris municipality, the chairman is Mr Jean-Yves Mano and the chief Mr Stéphane Dambrine.
Paris Habitat-OPH has 2800 people working for it, 1,300 of which are housekeepers who live in the public housing themselves and are the first point of contact with tenants. There is one housekeeper for every 100 apartments.
In addition to the superintendents, Paris Habitat-OPH has 750 people directly providing service to tenants in 35 building management districts, which make up Paris Habitat-OPH's local units. They are divided into six territories for administrative management purposes.
| Paris Habitat-OPH manages approximately 120,000 apartments for which it is either the owner or holds long-term leases.
Ninety percent of these apartments are located in Paris itself, the rest being located in nearby outskirts. The large majority of these apartments are low-income, with less than ten percent constituting what is referred to as "intermediate" housing, reflecting higher income brackets.
Low-income housing, depending upon the category, rents from 5 to 6,3 euros per square meter. Intermediate housing rents for between 12 and 17 euros per square meter. The square meter in Paris goes in the open market for around 20 to 22 euros, on the average, per square meter.
47 rue de la Montagne-
In addition, Paris Habitat-OPH manages 4000 businesses, located on the ground floor of the buildings (commercial businesses, craftsmen, organizations, and public facilities). It also manages 40,349 parking lots, all connected with the buildings.
- The Tenants Living in Paris Habitat-OPH Housing
Over the last several years, a phenomenon of economic weakening of the tenant population has been observed-77% of these people have income levels at less than 80% of the limit. The yearly income for 43% of the households is less than 10,000 euros per year. Forty percent of the households, for which housing is provided by Paris Habitat-OPH, receive individual financial aid or financial assistance for housing costs.
Another specific figure concerns the turnover rate in Paris Habitat-OPH housing facilities, which is very low-in the neighborhood of four percent.
- How Does Paris Habitat-OPH Fund its Investments?
A large part of the funding for new investments is public:
- The Government allows access to preferential financing;
- The local government (city of Paris) guarantees loans and may provide additional funding;
- Businesses provide contributions in exchange for the right to have their employees housed in public housing complexes;
- Paris Habitat-OPH may contribute up to ten to fifteen percent of the funding.
In exchange for these various financial contributions, the Government, local authorities, and businesses hold rights to reserve housing units for rent. In this context, Paris Habitat-OPH does not have the right of rental on the new buildings. It gets back its rights at the end of the period of repayment.
- How is the Allocation of Housing Handled?
Paris Habitat-OPH has implemented a policy based on a transparent application process. An independent committee made up of the different groups-Paris Habitat-OPH administrators, tenant representatives, elected officials, and partners-decides on the housing applications.
For each apartment, three applications are recommended. The committee reviews the applications and makes its decision on the basis of urgency, the length of time that the applicant has been waiting, and the applicant's personal circumstances. It verifies that the apartment is question is appropriate for the family applying.
The committee refers to an allocation chart prepared by Paris Habitat-OPH which defines the rules and criteria for the granting of housing applications, in accordance with the law.
- How can Public Housing for Paris be Provided?
The City of Paris has defined as a public policy objective the development of 6,000 public housing units per year-2000 of which shall be developed through Paris Habitat-OPH.
To achieve that, Paris Habitat-OPH must diversify its sources of development to include:
- the construction of facilities, whenever possible;
- the acquisition of occupied buildings, recently made possible, allowing Paris Habitat-OPH to develop public housing in sections of the city where there is still very little-that is, in the central and western sections of Paris;
- acquisition and improvement-the acquisition of run-down buildings in need of substantial structural improvements, undertaken on vacant buildings.
Whenever possible, Paris Habitat-OPH seeks to even out geographically the location of public housing facilities, which are, at this time, principally concentrated in the northern and eastern sections of Paris.