Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New French law enshrining right to housing

Parisian tent city raises stakes for homeless. Social protest spurs French government to enshrine in law a right to housing ANITA ELASH

PARIS — First-year sociology student Guenola Sacher emerged from her red dome tent along Paris's Canal St. Martin with a chill in her bones, a slight ache in her back and the vague sense that she had somehow helped solve the problems of the homeless in France. Ms. Sacher, 18, is one of about 100 well-housed middle-class French people who have been camping alongside 300 homeless to try to press the state into providing housing for the country's growing number of sans domicile fixe.

The group had been there for three weeks when the government gave in last week, as Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced a new law that would legally enforce the right to housing, giving it the same status in France as the right to health care and education. Only Scotland has a similar law, the Homelessness Act, which was passed in 1987 and takes full effect in 2012. Mr. de Villepin said the government had been working on the proposal for at least six months. But with the presidential election just four months away, and poverty turning out to be one of the main issues in the campaign, Mr. de Villepin conceded that a series of publicity stunts by activists had acted as "an accelerator" and helped the government decide to move ahead.

(Click here to read more)