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France Announces New Urban Renewal Plan

Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois in Seine-Saint-Denis
Photo: AFP/JOEL ROBINE

On August 22 François Lamy, Junior Minister for Urban Affairs, announced a new plan for urban renewal that will focus on the areas experiencing the greatest difficulty. The new plan is expected to be carried out in the first half of 2013.

The new program (PNRU- National Project for Urban Renewal) will be directed by the ANRU (National Agency for Urban Renewal). The plan will cost €40M. Of that amount, €12M will be given to the ANRU for heading the project.

Lamy says that the new plan “will simplify the zoning and will focus public intervention on the districts that need it the most.” The new “priority geography” will focus on 6 of 101 départements: Seine-Saint-Denis, Essonne, Val-d’Oise, Bouches-du-Rhône, Rhône, and Nord.

The first three are suburbs of Paris, and are included in the French region Île-de-France, an area that contains Paris and its suburbs. The last three are suburbs of the French cities of Marseille, Lyon, and Lille, respectively.

Île-de-France, which contains 3 of the 6 areas currently having the most economic and social difficulty, is the most heavily populated region in France. Seine-Saint-Denis is an immediate suburb, while Essonne and Val-d’Oise are part of the second crown surrounding Paris.

In France’s largest, most iconic cities, the poor, urban suburbs have been growing outside the city limits since the 1950s, when housing projects were rapidly constructed to accommodate a large wave of immigrants coming primarily from North Africa.

Île-de-France is also the region containing France’s highest immigrant population. 19% of the population is French, with most of that group residing within the limits of Paris.

The housing often suffers from being quickly and poorly constructed, and after the 1973 economic crisis, these suburbs deteriorated and became a place where only the poor lived. In 2003, the government introduced the Borloo law, which strengthened City Policy. The law included plans for urban renewal and a focus on specific “priority” areas.

In 2006, they specified 15 ZFU (free urban zones) that need special attention. To be considered a ZFU, the neighborhood must have more than 10,000 and must meet certain criteria of unemployment, lack of education, percentage of youth, and financial potential of each inhabitant.

The measure now being instated was first proposed by the Court of Auditiors in 2009 during Sarkozy’s presidency, but was pushed back and has now come to the forefront again.

The Parti Socialiste (PS), President François Hollande’s party, asserts its desire to fight against poverty, describing on its website that “social and urban diversity will only be obtained through redistribution.” They acknowledge that the greatest difficulty often occurs in urban areas.

In 2006, the population of Île-de-France was 11,532,398. The 2005 immigrant population was around 8%. These statistics are not very representative, however, because in many cases, the population of the city is lower in percentage of immigrants than the suburbs.  The suburbs also tend to be poor, with high levels of unemployment.

The goal of the new plan is to tear down the old buildings and build new ones that are of better quality, and also includes policies to help the inhabitants of these buildings integrate better into society. The law would, among other things, create jobs for the 150,000 young people who could not otherwise find work.

François Lamy stated that the goal of the new program would be “social and functional diversity, as well as the opening up of the neighborhoods.” The law is set to be looked at in Parliament at the end of September.

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  1. […] Marseille’s case might have shed light on one of the plagues of the French urban areas – administrative inconsistency. Common great scale policies might bring fresh solutions to lasting urban troubles. […]

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