Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Homes for the Homeless: Vive la France!

David Seaton's News Links
Political action is possible, things can be changed, activists can make a difference... In short another world is possible... at least in Scotland and France. DS
France adopts Scottish policy of legal right to housing - Financial Times
Abstract: The law would allow homeless people to sue public authorities and force them to provide accommodation. It follows an assertive campaign by homeless associations that has pushed a growing public concern up the political agenda four months before France’s presidential elections. France’s interest in Scottish housing policies has surprised some campaigners who, in spite of long-standing close Franco-Scottish relations, are more accustomed to seeing the UK as a bastion of heartless capitalism. In a nod to this apparent paradox, Mr de Villepin said: “For our Anglo-Saxon friends, this is proof of France’s pragmatism, drawing on what works best elsewhere, while taking account of France’s specific needs.” He said action would be taken to reduce the shortfall of 600,000 social dwellings. Campaigners claim the real figure is closer to 1m. Jacques Chirac, France’s president, promised a right to housing in his new year’s speech last weekend, winning some praise but raising questions over why he waited until his twelfth year as president to take action. Concern for the homeless is a recurring theme in France’s media whenever temperatures drop over Christmas. But this year the issue has attracted more attention because of daring publicity tactics by campaigners. Homeless people in central Paris were given khaki tents last year, making them more visible. Since then, hundreds more tents, pink this time, have been set up for the homeless and their middle class sympathisers beside the Canal St Martin in a fashionable area of the French capital. Similar tents have also sprung up in Nice, Lyons and Toulouse. The latest coup was last week’s “requisitioning” of a vacant bank branch by campaign groups to house 80 people. The six-floor building, owned by mutual bank CIC, has been dubbed the “ministry for the housing crisis” by its squatters. This lobbying has forced presidential candidates – including Nicolas Sarkozy on the right and Ségolène Royal on the left – to take a stance on the homeless. Media attention has added to the impression that social issues, such as crime, immigration and the cost of living, are dominating the election campaign. Mr Sarkozy, the campaign’s only self-proclaimed economic liberal, has been peppering recent speeches with more socially conscious policy ideas. At his latest rally he promised to house anyone who did not want to be homeless within two years. By shifting to the centre-ground Mr Sarkozy seems to be reacting to the meteoric rise of Ms Royal as the Socialist party candidate. Ms Royal has made the fight against poverty the centrepiece of her campaign. “That poverty still exists in a country like ours, this is the real scandal,” she recently told the Journal du Dimanche. READ IT ALL

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