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New legal solutions for housing

The diagnosis is mixed: the level of effort made by residents of large urban areas to find housing is overwhelming and leaves many households without a solution.

To improve housing conditions, politicians want to promote construction. This is necessary. But isn't it also essential to rethink our models, to review economic and legal balances, to find new remedies? Two major trends have emerged.

The first of these trends questions the very nature of property rights. As an extension of the individual and his or her freedom, the right to property is nonetheless a contingent concept that evolves with the needs of society. Yet, in our society, where it is no longer possible to think of oneself as sedentary, the symbolic value of housing, of “home”, is fading. The figures bear witness to this: in Paris, principal residences are generally resold every nine years and, in 80% of these cases, the heirs do not keep the family home upon the death of the last surviving parent. The value in use of an accommodation then becomes at least as important as its asset value. Households are essentially looking for independence, and ownership is more a way to avoid losing money and protect one’s family than a distinctive sign of success or a desire to establish one’s home. Since the cost of land can represent up to 50% of the price of housing in large cities, it is therefore logical, in view of the social and societal changes observed, to reinvent, through the prism of stripping, the right of ownership, in order to limit it in time but also to strengthen it in its very nature and in its spatial dimension. Real estate leases, joint and several real estate leases, rental usufruct, “lifetime” ownership” are all concepts that are emerging and multiplying in this sector, and which quite naturally rely on the engineering of agile legal experts with an understanding of public and private law, and especially with contracts.

The second trend is apparently less of a legal one, since it concerns the way people are housed, because here too, taking into account new needs, it is possible to find new solutions. Some of them are related to the type of user you want to address: elderly or young working people for example. Others are more closely linked to a way of sharing housing, with other people or other activities: we think of coliving or modular housing that also allows people to exercise a professional activity. But there are also changes in mentalities in the way housing is produced. Here again, there are several examples: new ideas are emerging to enable users to collaborate in the design of their homes in order to optimize their functionalities and, possibly, to get more for the same price. Participatory housing is expanding, and discussions are beginning to give a second life to suburban residential areas by producing a few housing units on sparsely populated land, and at the same time giving a new lease of life to a neighbourhood or even a municipality. These new uses of housing naturally raise new legal questions and prompt legal experts to devise and innovate, which presupposes a perfect mastery of substantive law, but above all an understanding of the developments in our society.

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