Instead I'll tell you about our bike trip around Montpellier looking at the different quartiers. My DB is half-heartedly thinking about buying an apartment to live in but, despite living here for about six years, knows nothing about the city.
|La Paillade (a priority security zone...)|
When I first came to Montpellier, there were hardly any gated apartment communities. Now, most are; the only ones not are the tattier blocks of social housing (HLM). Obviously all this wonderful social mixing has led to an increase in feelings of insecurity, backed by statistics of increasing crime (especially burglary and vols à l'arraché -'grab theft'), and every man and his dog is locking himself away. Some of the remaining houses even have bars on every window, top and bottom. Must be peaceful living in prison...
One estate agent told us that a whopping 80% of apartments are rented (lots of students) and only 20% are owner-occupied. Is this the result of all those enticing tax-deductible programmes that various governments have implemented over the years to encourage the buy-to-let market? Yet, there is a shortage of housing, especially social housing.
I read that ten people arrive in Montpellier every day. However, new building programmes are collapsing and 55% of those that have planning permission are on hold because of the crisis. When building promoters start a building project, the government imposes 20% social housing into the total number of residences. So, if they build a block of 100 flats, 20 of them have to be HLM. In Montpellier, the number of HLM is 30.
So who pays? During the elections, I learned that it is private buyers who finance the HLM. They pay more for their square metres to cover the cost of the HLM. It may not be a coincidence, in that case, that buying a place to live is more expensive in Montpellier than elsewhere. You get fewer square metres for your money on average (35.3m² to 38.2m² in new-builds) than in the top ten French towns.
After visiting Celleneuve, La Chamberte, Mas Drevon, Croix d'Argent, Estanove, Alco and La Martelle, my DB decided that he does not want to live in Montpellier itself. High prices, high insecurity, noise and traffic don't make it an appealing idea.
Where I live, outside the city, we do not lock ourselves away behind solid metal barriers, the population is homogeneous and it's a little corner of peaceful paradise. But I also pay an arm and a leg on rent, and will continue to do so until my boys leave home. Peace and quiet comes at a price unfortunately.