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French Social Housing in an International Context


  • Kathleen Scanlon

    (London School of Economics)

  • Christine Whitehead

    (London School of Economics)


In this paper we describe the main features of the French social housing system as viewed from abroad, and place it within the context of systems in other major developed countries, particularly in Europe. At 17% of the total stock the social sector in France is of similar scale to many other European countries but aims to play a more =universalist‘ role. Moreover the sector still benefits from a special circuit of finance as well as direct subsidies to a greater degree than many comparator countries. Even so, increasing proportions of social tenants come from lower income groups and the government has legislated for rights to assistance. In this context we examine the comparative evidence on the stock of social housing and new construction in the sector; financing and subsidy regimes; systems for allocating tenants to social-housing dwellings; and the resulting demographics. We identify some French policies and practices that reflect the country‘s relative interest in maintaining a traditional social sector and areas such as public/private partnership where France has acted as leader in policy development. We also identify aspects of social housing where France is anomalous in a European context, as well as some where policy appears to have limited economic rationale. Finally, we make some observations about possible future policy directions. This Working Paper relates to the 2011 OECD Economic Survey of France ( Le logement social français dans une perspective internationale Dans ce document de travail, nous décrivons les principales caractéristiques du système de logement social français, vu de l'étranger, et le plaçons dans le contexte des systèmes d'autres grands pays développés, en particulier en Europe. Avec 17% du stock total de logements, le secteur social en France est d'une envergure similaire à celui de nombreux autres pays européens, mais vise à jouer un rôle plus «universaliste». En outre ce secteur bénéficie toujours d'un circuit spécial de financement ainsi que des subventions directes à un degré plus élevé que dans de nombreux pays comparables. Cependant, des proportions croissantes de locataires de logements sociaux viennent de groupes à faible revenu et le gouvernement a légiféré en faveur de droits à l'assistance. Dans ce contexte, nous examinons les données comparatives du stock de logements sociaux et des nouvelles constructions dans le secteur, les régimes de financement et de subvention, les systèmes d‘attribution des logements sociaux, et la démographique en résultant. Nous identifions certains politiques et pratiques françaises qui reflètent l'intérêt relatif du pays dans le maintien d'un secteur social traditionnel et des domaines tels que le partenariat public / privé où la France a agi comme novatrice dans l'élaboration des politiques. Nous avons également identifié les aspects du logement social où la France se singularise dans un contexte européen, ainsi que d'autres où les politiques semblent avoir peu de logique économique. Enfin, nous faisons quelques observations concernant de possibles orientations futures. Ce Document de travail se rapporte à l‘Étude économique de l‘OCDE de la France 2011 (

Suggested Citation

  • Kathleen Scanlon & Christine Whitehead, 2011. "French Social Housing in an International Context," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 862, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:862-en

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    comparative housing policy; French housing policy; housing subsidies; logement social; politique comparée du logement; politique française du logement; social housing; subventions au logement;

    JEL classification:

    • H42 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Publicly Provided Private Goods
    • H75 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Government: Health, Education, and Welfare
    • R21 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Housing Demand
    • R30 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Real Estate Markets, Spatial Production Analysis, and Firm Location - - - General
    • R31 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Real Estate Markets, Spatial Production Analysis, and Firm Location - - - Housing Supply and Markets
    • R38 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Real Estate Markets, Spatial Production Analysis, and Firm Location - - - Government Policy

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