Secondary residences: "Our villages cannot become amusement parks that only exist during the holidays"
From Brittany to Corsica via the Basque Country and the Hautes-Alpes, the same questions come up: how to regulate the installation of owners of second homes, which can create an increase in real estate prices and sometimes the exodus local residents? What assets can these people represent for the territories? A symposium is organized this Wednesday at the National Assembly.
"Tourist territories: is the right to live in the country threatened?" From the seaside to the high mountains, elected officials and citizens are asking questions. At the National Assembly, Wednesday, January 26, two deputies launched the debate on this theme, on the problem of second homes. Jean-Félix Acquaviva and Xavier Roseren are respectively deputies for Haute-Corse and Haute-Savoie but they make the same observations. They are organizing a symposium which will be broadcast live on their Facebook accounts from 2:45 p.m.
"On the occasion of the finance bill in December, we had amendments which were very similar, including an amendment which consisted in being able to increase the housing surcharge in agglomerations where the areas are tense", says Xavier Roseren, deputy LREM . "In areas with more than 50,000 inhabitants the mayor can say 'I'm increasing the council tax up to 60%.' The injustice is that in very tense tourist areas but which do not have 50,000 inhabitants, such as in our mountains in Haute-Savoie or Corsica, the mayor does not have the right to set up this surcharge. housing. It only concerns second homes and provides additional resources for communities. It would be used for permanent housing. Either rental or home ownership or to buy land and build housing. social housing." The amendments of the two deputies are refused. "The government saw this as an increase in the tax. We said that it was a question of additional resources for tourist municipalities in order to be able to continue to live in the country."
For the two deputies, there is urgency. Presidential elections are the right time to get the message across.
On the program of the symposium, a first round table concerns the rise in second homes and the resulting increase in land and real estate prices. Guests come from Brittany, the Hautes-Alpes of the Basque Country or Corsica. "Difficulties are increasing everywhere in the territory, especially for resident populations. This reinforces social and territorial inequalities. This is very true in Corsica but it is developing almost everywhere", insists Julien Paolini, guest of this round table, adviser Executive of Corsica and President of the Agency for Town Planning and Energy of Corsica.
Anne Barrioz is a researcher in geography, her thesis focuses on people who settle, in the long term, in the high alpine valleys. She will also be invited to the colloquium. We asked him why people choose to buy a second home. “We saw it with the Covid-19 crisis, the people who bought want nature, she says. This is what is called leisure migration, especially related to leisure. We leave the city that we find more difficult to live in on a daily basis." The researcher also cites financial investors as another example. These are either people who invest in a pied-à-terre in rural areas, or people encouraged by tax measures such as the Censi-Bouvard law. This regulation offers tax reductions for taxpayers who invest in certain structures in order to rent them furnished for nine years. As a result, prices are rising and local residents sometimes struggle to find housing.
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Significant income gaps
According to INSEE, it is precisely in the Alps that the income gap between year-round residents and owners of second homes is the highest.
But rising house prices are not the only problem. "When the share of second homes increases more and more, there are tensions between users. The objectives of life and of frequenting the territory are not the same. I think that it depends a lot on the territories and the personalities of each but these tensions can be significant, underlines Anne Barrioz. In terms of reception, we still think a lot today in France of the reception of tourists and owners of second homes. We have tourist offices but we do not have not many offices that welcome these inhabitants year-round or actions that are put in place by tourist municipalities to welcome them. Yet they are the ones who bring these tourist territories to life."
What policies for welcoming locals?
To illustrate these tensions, Xavier Roseren cites the example of Megève, a posh ski resort in the heart of the Mont-Blanc massif. "The town has gone from 5,500 inhabitants to 3,000 in about twenty years. The consequence is also the closing of shops, nurseries or school classes."
For him, it is above all a question of "finding a balance". “There are secondary residents who are there and who also bring the territory to life. But this must not be done to the detriment of the main residents who can no longer find accommodation or who are forced either to find accommodation further away, or away from their place of work.
In Switzerland, solutions are being tested. In municipalities that have exceeded the 20% quota for secondary residences, it is in principle excluded from authorizing new ones. But this prohibition is not absolute. In the canton of Valais, the city of Champéry has tried to "retain" its 1,200 secondary residents so that they can settle permanently in the town. The latter did not pay taxes, which put the city in deficit. "To make them come year-round, the city has developed coworking spaces, highlighted the fact that it had more accessible doctors than in the city, but it's very local," insists Anne Barrioz.
Because people who have a second home can represent an asset for the territory. Xavier Roseren, in a previous career, bought a sports store. In 2010, during the financial crisis, it was the owners of second homes who constituted its main clientele and enabled it to maintain a financial balance.
One in ten accommodation in second homes
While in France secondary residences represent one in ten accommodations (very unevenly distributed across the territories), there is still little research on the subject and few laws to regulate the phenomenon. "It's a very local problem. Perhaps some see it as a problem of the rich which does not affect the majority of French people. But we must warn, says Xavier Roseren. Our villages cannot become amusement parks who only live during the holidays."
For him, solutions can be put in place quickly, such as his proposal on the housing tax. Other avenues may take more time and political support, such as modifications to land rights or local urban plans.
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