Paris’s Massive Affordable Housing Issue



Like so many other international cities around the world, Paris has a huge affordability problem with its housing.  The reasons are complex and varied but when millions of people wish to live in a place, the demand can cause many issues.  Paris ranks as one of the most expensive cities in the world.  Depending on where you look its the second most expensive or the 5th most.  That is splitting hairs because the bottom line is the city is just expensive.  There are several issues contributing to the problem and different actions being taken to improve upon the issues.

Rental Properties:

The idea of renting your apartment to tourists for $150-$300 a day is quite appetizing if you are looking to make some extra money.  Why rent an apartment for $1,000 or $1500 a month when you can get $3,000-$5,000 using short-term rentals.  You never have to worry about a bad tenant and the demand in France is quite high.  This is one of the many complex issues facing the French capital.  Paris has tried to crack down on property owners renting out their properties but with mixed results.  The enforcement of these rules now rest with the Mayor’s department of housing.  Those who are found to break the rules could be fined over 25,000 euro.

Other strange types of rental housing are flooding the market with a secondary market of sorts popping up.  A story in the Guardian Newspaper in the UK brought out how some people were renting spaces not meant to be inhabited out for extra money.  Included in this were storage spaces, old attics where people could not even stand up straight and other shabby housing conditions.  They might pay 300-500 euro a month for a few square meters of space.

Simply Not Enough:

As with most cities as popular as Paris, there is not enough housing.  This is not just Paris though.  A recent study showed that France is short anywhere from 800,000 to 1 million units of housing.  The problem is Paris is perhaps more extreme.   The same report is also critical of many local governments who do not provide enough land with zoning restrictions that allow for the dense type of building that is needed.  The higher a developer can go with a new apartment building, the more units that can be created.

New Affordable Housing:

However; we are seeing a big push in Paris and throughout France to provide more affordable housing.  Paris Habitat is the major player in the social housing realm but the communist party has made a big move to increase affordable stock.  A new affordable housing project was put on line on the rue Saint-Honore which is know as one of the swankiest spots in Paris.  The 12 units have set-asides for extremely low income and moderate income families.   A few other developments have gone up in more affluent neighborhoods which is good news for the residents of Paris.    Creating affordable housing throughout the city will be a major driver of ensuring that Parisians of all classes and wealth can have access to the city and its amenities.  Some of these social rents will be around 300 euro per month.

The city has a plan to build around 5,000 new affordable housing units by 2020 in better neighborhoods.  The interesting fact is that these are to mostly be in affluent areas of the city.  While this is a great step, the city is actually trying to build 7,000 social units per year during the same time span.  I do not think we can fault the city or its social housing company for not being able to build more of these planned units in higher opportunity zones.  Either way, the increase in social housing is good for the city.

Existing Affordable Housing:

The major provider of social housing in Paris is Paris Habitat.  They own and operate over 120,000 units of social housing and have over 300,000 residents.  Yet the affordability issue cannot be dealt with alone by the council housing provided by Habitat.  This housing association has the development goal of 1500 new units a year and 3,000 renovations but it is clear that more is needed.


Paris is not being passive about the affordability issue.  City leaders and social housing professionals are working hard to find ways to bring more housing and less issues to the city.  From creating new policies to free up existing stock to building and renovating new stock, there is a plan in place.  Do you live or work in social housing within Paris?  We would love to hear from you.  Email us at


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