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Wanted: A place to live in Paris

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The race for accommodation in Paris could be an Olympic sport in itself. The number of rentals available is plummeting while prices are soaring, yet real estate agents are overwhelmed with demand. From short-term rentals to efficiency upgrades, prospective tenants are paying the price for the ongoing crisis. We take a closer look.

Léandre is 27. He’s been looking for a flat in Paris for the past two months, having visited more than 15 different places. Every day, it’s the same routine: sifting through all the listings, in vain. 

He is currently staying with a family member. Despite his permanent job as an events project manager with a monthly income of around €2,400, as well as two guarantors, Léandre’s application hasn’t been accepted. “There were two or three apartments where I was in the final stages, so to speak,” he explains. “Unfortunately, each time they chose the applications with the highest income, which I can understand as it’s more reassuring for them. There are fewer and fewer offers, and inevitably, over time, I wonder whether I made the right decision to stay in this city, even if it’s very attractive.”

Léandre is actively looking for an apartment to rent in Paris.
Léandre is actively looking for an apartment to rent in Paris. © FRANCE 24

Léandre’s case is far from unique. In Paris, demand for housing has exploded in recent months. The number of rentals in the French capital has fallen 74 percent in three years, according to real estate specialists. 

“Out of four available properties, three have disappeared, which is unbelievable. As a comparison, in France over the same period, we’ve seen a 25 percent decrease in rental supply. It’s three times greater in Paris than in the rest of the country,” says Barbara Castillo Rico, director of economic studies at SeLoger. “As a direct consequence, rents started to increase roughly two years ago, and they soared in the past year, in 2023. We’ve gone from an increase of less than 2 percent to over 3 percent.”

The Parisian housing market is also feeling the pinch of rising interest rates. Over the past two years, tenants have had difficulty buying their own home. As a result, they remain tenants for longer and don’t free up their accommodation. 

Energy efficiency upgrades

Another reason why affordable rentals are scarce is because some apartments are in poor condition. In Paris, 35 percent of homes are not energy efficient. Their owners won’t be allowed to rent them out if upgrades haven’t been made by 2025 or 2028, depending on the insulation grade. 

“Nowadays, there are many old properties with grades F and G. Landlords are wondering what to do. Some decide to sell their apartments because they cannot afford the insulation work,” explains Eddy Gaphian, a real estate agent. “It cost €44,000 euros to renovate this flat. It’s a lot, and on top of that, there’s a loss of space because you have to insulate the walls. Here for example, they lost two square metres.”

In a bid to ease tensions with homeowners, the French government has agreed to a new method to calculate the energy performance of small properties. It means that some homes – under 40m² – might not have to be renovated just yet. The new energy efficiency audits will start on July 1, for roughly 11 percent of small apartments.

In the midst of this rental housing crisis, one in five properties in Paris is actually vacant, according to the Urban Planning Agency. From second homes to vacation rentals, some 262,000 homes are reportedly empty or nearly empty all year round. Paris wins the gold medal when it comes to seasonal rentals. On Airbnb alone, there are at least 60,000 furnished rentals up for grabs. And with the upcoming Olympics, the number of short-term leases is booming. 

Insulation work on a 29m² apartment in Paris.
Insulation work on a 29m² apartment in Paris. © FRANCE 24

Rise in eviction notices

The local housing advice agency recently noticed a rise in eviction notices, especially for furnished apartments. “Obviously, it’s going to tempt a lot of people,” says Sophie Morvan, a legal expert. “They’re able to rent out their apartment for an extortionate amount of money per night whereas longer leases, with tenants who use the apartment as their main residence, are regulated. So yes, there is a risk. The only way to prove a fraud is to vacate the flat, and then return to the premises to get the neighbours’ testimonies, perhaps take a photo of the mailbox to see if the name invoked in the notice matches or not. It’s only then that the fraud is noticeable. The tenant can then take the matter to court to claim damages. The landlord can be fined up to €6,000.”

Thanks to a special hotline, legal expert Sophie Morvan helps tenants who are questioning their landlord’s integrity.
Thanks to a special hotline, legal expert Sophie Morvan helps tenants who are questioning their landlord’s integrity. © FRANCE 24

More and more people who are desperate to find a rental now seek help from research assistants. Highly active on TikTok, they offer personalised searches for young house hunters. “The aim is for us to be available as soon as an apartment frees up,” explains one of them, Cyril Bathélémy. “That way, as soon as something comes up, we call as quickly as possible and book the viewing. We’re like assistants. The goal is for the person to get a viewing and everything else – booking, paperwork, sending and modifying documents – we do it.”

Cyril takes care of Sara's apartment research for €250.
Cyril takes care of Sara’s apartment research for €250. © FRANCE 24

Real estate analysts say there might be a surge in listings in September, after the Olympics. But for now, the race for a flat in Paris remains fiercely competitive.

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