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Local Matters / Changing Landscape

France offers real (estate) solutions to the refugee crisis

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With the global refugee crisis intensifying, private companies and public officials in France have prepared a number of temporary and permanent real estate solutions to house refugees.

On Monday 7th September, President François Hollande announced that France would accommodate 24,000 migrants over a period of two years. Both elected officials and private actors have been devising various concrete strategies for accommodating the asylum seekers.

The newly elected President of the High Committee for the housing of disadvantaged people (HCLPD), Marie-Arlette Carlotti, publicized her solutions in a commentary in the Nouvel Observateur.

So far, an empty student residence in Champagne-sur-Seine (in the Seine-et-Marne department), a monastery in Bonelles (Yvelines) and a leisure center in Cergy-Pontoise (Val-d’Oise) have served as temporary accommodation for the refugees who arrived in Île-de-France from Munich, Germany, this week.

However Carlotti points to the need to find “sustainable housing solutions” for migrants to go to after leaving the “transit centers”.

She proposes the provision of “77,310 vacant social housing units to accommodate the refugees”, specifying that these units have been awaiting tenants for over three months and are situated in “areas where demand is low”.

Participating in the effort, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced on Thursday September 10th the opening of seven shelters set up in requisitioned vacant public buildings. The City of Paris press release explains how “these 7 new centers will strengthen the capacity of existing centers in Paris and Île-de-France”.

Six of the seven shelters will be located in central Paris — in the 3rd, 10th, 13th, 15th, 19th and 20th arrondissements ­­— with the seventh taking over an old nursery set in a building owned by the City of Paris in Bourg-la-Reine (in the Hauts-de-Seine department). This shelter will be specifically dedicated to pregnant women and mothers with small children.

Parisian hospitals are also lending a helping hand, with Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP) making some of their buildings available to house refugees. A September 9th press release mentions the “fully operational buildings” AP-HP are making available, buildings that were previously going to be turned into staff housing or sold off.

These include an entire wing of the Hôpital La Rochefoulcaud in the 14th as well as the Hôpital Georges Clemenceau in Champcueil (in the Essonne department). These facilities will be made available for use as refugee accommodation for 12 to 18 months.

A number of private companies have joined the effort: the National Association for Adult Vocational Training (AFPA) has offered 2000 of its 9000 vacant housing units, while VVF Villages, a tourism company, announced on 9th September that it was making available 20 of the 89 sites it manages. The Gambetta Group — part of the Social Union for Housing (USH) — expressed its willingness to “help asylum seekers by providing ten vacant housing units” in the Maine-et-Loire department of the Pays-de-la-Loire region in west-central France.

An association named Singa, started in Paris two years ago to facilitate the socio-economic integration of refugees, recently launched the CALM initiative — short for “Comme à la Maison”, or “Just Like Home”. The project aims to connect families wishing to offer hospitality to refugees who have been granted asylum through their website. Just last week, the organization received over 600 offers of accommodation for periods ranging from a month to a year mainly in Paris and Île-de-France, but also all over the country.

 

Photo credit: Flickr / Frédéric Bisson

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