This Paris Life

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Defense Ministry building in Paris’ 7th arrondissement may become social housing

The French ministry of defense is leaving its building in the 7th arrondissement to move into new headquarters in the south of Paris. Paris’ Mayor wants to convert the old office to social housing.

By September, the Defense ministry staff and central services of the armed forces will move into the “Balargone” — a play on the ministry’s new location in Balard and the Pentagone— in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, leaving their old office vacant. But not for long.

Two blocks from the Seine and just steps away from the National Assembly, the historic premises benefit from a prized location. More than a mere office building, it is commonly referred to as the îlot Saint-Germain, or Saint-Germain isle. The edifice occupies its own self-contained stretch bordered by the prominent Boulevard-Saint-Germain and rue Saint-Dominique.

No wonder then, that its fate is the subject of a heated debate.

The Minister of Defense, Jean-Yves Le Drian, wants to sell the old building for a handsome sum, an understandable wish in light of the new headquarters costing over 4 billion euros. France Domaine — the service in charge of managing and assessing state-owned real estate — has estimated the premises at 350 million euros.

Meanwhile, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo wants to acquire the îlot Saint-Germain and turn at least half of it into social housing.

Hidalgo, who has made housing a priority in her second term in office, argues that the 7th arrondissement contains only 1.3% of the city’s social housing. Not surprising considering it’s one of the most exclusive and expensive districts in the capital.

Under the Loi Duflot — named after ex Minister of Housing Cécile Duflot —property can be ceded at a price inferior to its value for the construction of social housing.

Senate budget rapporteur Albéric de Mongolfier — member of The Republicans — fears that “if the Loi Duflot is applied, the îlot Saint-Germain might be sold for one euro”.

However this provision of the Loi Duflot hasn’t encountered great success as of yet. In fact, as the general accounting office points out, only 11 properties were sold at a discount under this law in 2014.


Photo: Anissa Putois

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