Housing: a decree accused of being an open door to slum landlords and demanding its review

Housing: a decree accused of being an open door to slum landlords and demanding its review

Ceiling height of 1.80 m, built-in cellar considered as accommodation, lack of a mandatory window with opening: the High Committee for the Right to Housing (HCDL) calls this Friday for the complete revision of a decree accused of to be an open door for slum landlords.

A week after the vote in the Senate on the bill on “degraded housing”, which concerns between 400,000 and 600,000 homes in France, the HCDL, an independent body created on the initiative of Abbé Pierre and linked to the Prime Minister, calls for revision of the decree of 29 July 2023 on health rules for hygiene and sanitation in residential buildings.

Left-wing deputies and senators were unable to have this decree revised during the debates in parliament on the text ‘Undignified housing’. “The precise definition of undignified or unsanitary housing, laid down in the law, allows intervention by administrative authorities, in a preventive or curative manner,” the HCDL recalls in its opinion. However, today’s housing crisis is forcing “thousands of households to take refuge in sub-markets of poverty: slums, squats” and “allowing slum landlords to multiply.”

In order to harmonize at national level the health rules for hygiene and sanitation of homes, which were until now defined at departmental level, the government launched a simplification of the buildings policy in 2020. It is within this framework that the decree was adopted.

The reform aimed to harmonize the rules “from above”, the authors note, but this goal, in their view, is not achieved, with different rules remaining depending on the territories, while the decree also results in “a regression of the applicable rules’. law in terms of health regulations that weaken the victims of unsanitary housing”.

Height, cellars, ventilation and natural light

This is the case with the ceiling height, which today can reach 1.80 m, compared to 2.20 m previously, provided that the living volume is 20 m3. “The lack of space in housing contributes to the development of anxiety and depressive pathologies,” recalls the HCDL.

Additionally, while basements have historically been considered unsuitable for habitation, the text adds “an exception for basements that do not pose a risk to the health of residents,” the authors note.

The new decision also does not require “permanent, natural or mechanical ventilation of the home”. “However, the absence of the obligation to have a window with an opening to the outside in every living room is essential to guarantee natural ventilation,” the High Committee emphasizes.

Finally, regarding natural light, the authors ask that “all main rooms serving as living rooms or bedrooms have natural lighting with the obligation of a sufficiently clear horizontal view”.

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