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House Building in France in 2018

Thursday 07 February 2019

With the publication of new house-building figures last month, the government appears to be finally conceding the need to give greater priority to renovating the existing housing stock.

The new-build housing programme in France is massive - the largest per head of population in Europe.

In 2017 nearly half a million new homes were built, and although the number fell last year, by any standards it remains a very substantial programme.

According to the government, housing starts fell by -0.6% to 414,000 units.

Of the over 400,000 new starts, around 250,000 were apartments (including shared housing).

In geographical terms, the scale of activity last year was mixed, as it is every year.

Only two mainland regions recorded an increase in planning consents: Nouvelle Aquitaine (+3.8%) and Hauts-de-France (+1.3%). In all other regions there was decrease, notably Occitanie (-12%), Centre-Val de Loire (-14.4%) and Paca (-16.9%). The Ile-de-France region posted a decline of -9.3%. All perhaps a sign of a prospective downturn in the market.

In terms of actual housing starts, only Brittany saw an increase (+3.3% to 25,100). The largest decreases were in Normandy (-10% to 14,400), Occitanie (-12.6% to 44,000) and Centre-Val de Loire (-14.9% to 10,100). The decline was less pronounced in Ile-de-France, down -5.1% to 78,400, which, not surprisingly, has the largest new-build programme in the country.

In announcing the figures, Minister of Housing, Julien Denormandie, appeared to recognise the skewed nature of the housing strategy (relying mainly on tax incentives for investment in new-build) stating: "It is necessary to build where it is necessary, but it is necessary to renovate where necessary."  going on to state that he found it "frustrating that a housing minister is judged by the figures for new construction."

He contrasted the new build figures with those for renovation, announcing that last year the housing renewal agency Anah funded 94,000 renovated homes, an increase of 16.5% over 2017.

The government have set a target 120,000 renovated homes in 2019, resulting in a 9% increase in the budget of the housing renewal agency Anah.

The government have also recently announced a new tax break for investment in the renovation and letting of older housing, and we shall be reporting on this initiative in due course.

There are around 3 million empty homes in France, equivalent to over 8% of the total housing stock.

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