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Conference Papers Year : 2019

Questioning Social Housing Companies’ Strategies in Shrinking Cities Under Austerity Regime in France

Marie Mondain


In his analysis of the implementation of austerity policies during the 1970’s, Pierson made of social housing a privileged sector for retrenchment measures with measures to sell social housing and restrict the access to the most underprivileged households (Pierson, 1995: 5). More recently Greece, Spain or Italy had target social housing sector for austerity policies (Housing Europe, 2015). Compared to these countries the French social housing sector seems to be less concerned by programmatic cut backs. The housing stock have not endured massive real estate sales. National public funds for the sector passed from 5,1 in 1984 to 12,1 billion in 2007 and reached 17,6 milliards in 2014. Since 2014 they have been slightly decreasing to 16,5 billion in 2017 (French Ministry of housing, 2018). Anyway, more discreet measures are under process: rescaling process since the 2000’s to concentrate public funds for social housing production in “tight social housing market” i.e. metropolitan areas and main cities, reshaping social housing sector by encourage housing companies to merge and evolutions of funding system which tend to substitute national public funds to self-sufficiency principles (Gimat, Halbert, 2018). With this talk I intended to observe consequences of those programmatic retrenchment at urban level for an actor of housing market, the social housing company. By focusing on the case of housing companies working in shrinking cities, I will be concerned on the way of how regional context - thriving cities that experienced decline of their economic and social bases - mingle with the logics of sectoral state retrenchments. Using national statistical data and the results of an empirical study in two French urban areas dealing with shrinkage (the city of Le Havre and five small and medium cities of Orne), I show first that we do not directly observe the emblematic responses such as massive dwelling sales, company’s failures or massive demolition programs. I show then that the context of shrinking cities under national trends of austerity transforms goals and tools of social housing companies. Reducing vacancy becomes the main aim. Even if housing companies have been dealing with housing vacancy for decades, it has turned to be a major issue since the end of the 2000’s. Indeed, rents are by far the main income of housing companies and each vacant dwelling could be recorded as a loss of income. Consequently, they deeply transformed their organization to decrease housing vacancy. Resources of the organization are displaced from land access competition to tenant attraction. They developed specific tools compeer to other social housing companies in commercial field and to managed reactively housing stock. Besides, in the most rural and depress areas they replaced private companies to build public infrastructures such as schools, police stations or retirement homes.
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halshs-03800015 , version 1 (06-10-2022)


  • HAL Id : halshs-03800015 , version 1


Marie Mondain. Questioning Social Housing Companies’ Strategies in Shrinking Cities Under Austerity Regime in France. Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics - The age of austerity in local context : how cities cope with budget constraints, Sophie Buhnik; Sebastian Kohl; Marie Piganiol, Jun 2019, New York, United States. ⟨halshs-03800015⟩
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