According to figures from the Abbé-Pierre Foundation, in 2012 almost nine million people in France were affected by the housing crisis (either without a personal place of abode, living in very difficult or overcrowded housing conditions, unable to pay their monthly rent or having, involuntarily, to live in the homes of others). If to these housing difficulties we add the need on the part of local authorities, particularly urban ones, to take account of the new approach to energy and the environment (the fashionable concept of the “sustainable city”) in a decade-long context of very high land and property prices (as compared with household incomes), then French local communities face a stiff challenge. However, Marc Wiel argues in this article that it is not insurmountable, provided that local institutions and those in charge of sectoral policies relating to housing in the broader sense (urban policies, transport policies, housing aid etc.) cooperate closely, with a view to controlling “property rents”.
Marc Wiel begins by showing how the process of urban development is not under control in France –largely because of the way that “property rents” are formed. He prefers this latter term to that of “increase in housing costs” on the grounds that it isn’t the costs of construction or demography or shortage that explain this price-rise. He then stresses the disadvantages in the fields of housing, transport and spatial planning, of not controlling property rents, together with the collective costs that ensue. Wiel proposes a new conceptual framework for grasping the (crucial) interactions between transport and urbanism and enabling the public authorities to correct the imperfections of the market and to influence the choice of location of the various actors (households, businesses, services etc.). Lastly, he formulates a variety of recommendations aimed at regulating the processes of urban development and spatial planning better and more fairly, through transport, movement and housing policies and by way of more collaborative work on the part of the actors concerned and a reform of the institutions in which they operate.