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France, a United Front of anti-evictions Mayors

Approximately 20 left-wing mayors have signed anti-eviction measures that also legislate against cutting off water and electricity, thus protecting almost one million inhabitants from the effects of the housing crisis. A plea to all mayors.

March 15 marked the end of the winter moratorium that forbade all tenant evictions from November 1 onwards. At this time last year, many communist, socialist, and environmentalist mayors of the 93rd  Department met for a press conference to draw attention to the situation that many families find themselves in: forced onto the streets due to huge amounts of unpaid rent. There were 13 elected officials[1]  present this year, including the mayor of Bobigny, who signed anti-eviction orders together in the room of Légion d’honneur de Saint-Denis, which is currently hosting an exhibit on 100 years of social housing. “Our efforts are paying off. Our orders are now in compliance with the law. It would be unacceptable for the administrative courts to annul them. Besides, the judges have fewer and fewer arguments against them ,” declared Michel Beaumale, the mayor of Stains, the first to have made this decision along with Bernard Birsinger in 2004. “Our movement is snowballing. Housing has become a question of justice ,” the local official added. Keep in mind that for four years and with the implementation of the Dalo law (Droit au logement opposable – The right to enforceable housing), poorly-housed persons can come before an administrative court in order to obtain acceptable housing if the State is not taking care of their previous home. The first deputy mayor Saint-Denis, Florence Aye, spoke about the failure of the Dalo law. “Only 40% of applicants received rehousing,” she specified. 158,329 applications . The executive director of the Abbé-Pierre Foundation, Patrick Doutreligne, who had come to support the elected officials’ initiative, was clearly angry, “The Dalo law has no relevance to anything at all. The evicted are not even on the waiting list.” According to the association, rehousing allocations resulting from eviction have risen 26% in 10 years, reaching 158,329 applications in 2010.

The foundation estimates that 50,000 households were forced to leave their homes due to a lack of means, of which 11,670 were forced out by the police. In Seine-Saint-Denis, the number of evictions rose 30% from 2009 to 2010. A representative of the Housing Solidarity Network of Saint-Denis (Réseau solidarité logement de Saint-Denis ) recalled two women who committed suicide last February. One was so deeply in debt that she could not pay her rent and the other had been in need of an apartment for 14 years! “Many women are alone and isolated. They must choose between paying their rent, eating, or taking care of themselves. How can we bring all that together? ” she asked the elected officials at their meeting on March 15.

Permanent Aid . The signatories are all attempting to address this issue in their own districts by helping overly indebted tenants and/or those threatened with eviction. A permanent presence exists in the city for the housing service in partnership with the Departmental Agency of Housing Information (ADIL), the Léo-Lagrange Consumer Defense Association of Bondy and a clerk (RDV at 01 70 32 43 15). Additionally, a legal help website [2]  about the right to emergency shelter was just created by some solidarity associations, the Lawyers’ Union of France (SAF), and the Judges’ Union (SM) to help the homeless get their right to housing acknowledged in accordance with a State measure taken on February 10, 2012. This requires the State to employ all necessary means to find the homeless shelter and rehousing. “A first step ,” says Nicole Valeanu, deputy mayor of Sevran. At the same time, the elected officials who signed the anti-eviction orders have called for an increase in building subsidies, which had fallen by €340 million between 2009 and 2012. They also asked for the application of the SRU law (Solidarité et renouvellement urbain  – Solidarity and Urban Renewal), which requires 20% of housing to be social in districts with populations over 35,000 people. Of those districts, 37% are dragging their feet. Finally, the mayors called upon the State to finance the construction of large social housing developments. Close to 3,000 people await an HLM (Habitation à Loyer Moderé - low rent housing) in Bobigny. “Evictions will never solve the housing crisis ,” protests Catherine Peyge, who also proposed forming a parliamentary committee to analyze “the human cost of eviction to the most exhaustive level possible, taking into account all economic and social aspects .”

Summit Meeting . The mayor has just signed, along with fifty other elected officials from l’Île-de-France, an appeal to the Prime Minister asking him to make the centers of emergency shelter permanent as it currently operates only during the winter moratorium on evictions. Furthermore, they ask him to organize a summit meeting on the subject. “Although the right to housing is written into the law, thousands of people end up wandering the streets and in unsafe situations that result in true slums or apartments without guarantees of fundamental security.”

[1]  Bagnolet, Blanc-Mesnil, Bobigny, Bondy, La Courneuve, Montreuil, Saint-Denis, Saint-Ouen, Sevran, Stains, Tremblay-en-France, Villepinte, Villetaneuse.

[2]  www.115juridique.org


The Volunteer translators for housing rights without frontiers of IAI who have collaborated on the translation of this text were:

Nathan Alexander Wendte, Hana Dushek


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