Do we really need to build 500,000 homes a year?

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It is tempting for governments to set targets with round numbers, even if they are never achieved. This is how the construction world has lived for years with the idea that France needs 500,000 new homes a year. “Evoked in 2002 by Crédit Foncier, the figure very quickly became the benchmark, without anyone really knowing why.», says Henri Buzy-Cazeaux, president of the Institute for the management of real estate services. In twenty years, this level was only approached in 2006 and 2007, and the average is more around 400,000 to 420,000 per year.

From now on, the dominant discourse is clearly to do less. A few weeks ago, during the debates at the National Council for Refoundation (CNR), the Treasury explained that 275,000 housing units per year should be enough. Population growth is less strong and the needs related to the increase in population and lifestyles with more and more blended families, would be offset by better use of the existing stock and mass renovation.

Last year, the Environment Agency even mentioned in a note the need for a drastic reduction in new construction, given its impact in terms of CO emissions.2.Among players in the sector, there is great concern. “It is difficult not to make the link between this desire to build less and the public disengagement in favor of housing. It represented 2.2% of GDP in 2010 and 1.5% last year,” emphasizes Christophe Robert, the general delegate of the Abbé-Pierre Foundation, who co-chairs the housing section of the CNR. “On the contrary, we must build more, but not everywhere and especially in tense areas. Otherwise the next social bomb could be housing. »

Grégory Monod, president of the habitat division of the French Building Federation makes the same observation: “Making people believe that it is enough to improve what already exists is an illusion. We need both new housing and renovating the old. »

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Today, the world of construction must face up to new problems, which collide. “We don’t want to densify city centers, but we say at the same time that urban sprawl is not good”, emphasizes Jean-Claude Driant, Emeritus Professor at the Paris School of Urbanism. New is less popular than before. “ Builder mayors are less likely to be re-elected than others “Recalls Pascal Boulanger, head of the Federation of promoters.

Added to this is the halving of soil artificialization by 2030, set by law, before the objective of “zero net land take” in 2050. Faced with the incomprehension of elected officials in the face of the decrees, deemed too dogmatic, the government has promised to review its copy.

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