A Nomad in Paris, Part I

So many apartments, yet nowhere to stay.

So many apartments, yet nowhere to stay. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

Back in August of last year, I wrote about a leak in my building that rendered my little Paris home uninhabitable—mostly because of high levels of dangerous mold. I had to hire a lawyer to ask the courts to intervene on my behalf. Nearly a year later, and thousands of euros in damages and legal fees, the courts have finally ordered the owner above me to repair the leak by the end of June. After we dry out eighteen months of moisture, remediate the mold, and do the repair work, if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to move back in sometime next year. Yes, you read that right: 2016. If Paris teaches you anything, it’s to be Zen about your life, because otherwise you will lose your marbles.

Ever-increasing damage in my little Paris place. But the real culprit is MOLD. I can't go near the stuff.

Ever-increasing damage in my little Paris place. But the real problem is MOLD. I can’t go near the stuff.

Meanwhile, I was finally granted my long-term stay visa for France—but hold your applause, folks! Remember, I have nowhere to live. I stayed in New York for the first part of the year, but now I’m here in Paris for a project—and to finally take advantage of my hard-earned visa. My housing option: Short-term furnished rentals.

Affordable Paris Rentals Remain Elusive

Housing in Paris is expensive; short-term furnished rentals in spring and summer—outrageous. From 2500 euros a month and upwards. Many agencies charge by the day during high season, as much as 350 euros. I hear you saying, “What about AirBnB?” Forget it, friends. Parisians know what their apartments are worth, so you’ll rarely find a bargain. And AirBnB is mostly for short vacation stays; I needed housing for three months. My AirBnB requests were rejected so many times, I started to get a complex.

Affordable rentals, in general, are scarce in Paris for a variety of reasons. That’s not to say there aren’t apartments out there, they’re just impossible to rent. Landlords are risk averse because it’s incredibly difficult to evict a tenant here—even for non-payment. Squatting is not uncommon here. As a foreigner, you’re really up against it, unless you can afford to pay up front for the entire amount of your stay—but you may still have to prove sufficient income and provide a guarantor. I haven’t needed a guarantor for a rental since my college days, but as a freelancer, I’d be a less than a desirable tenant here. The rental shortage is compounded by laws stipulating a property must be brought up to code before it can be rented it out—a cost that is prohibitive for landlords who would rather have their perfectly good apartment sit empty. Maddening, huh?

Barred from Lodgings: Paris regulations make finding short-term housing next to impossible—and even illegal in certain cases.

Barred from Lodgings: Paris regulations make finding short-term housing next to impossible—and even illegal in certain cases. Photo: ©Lisa Anselmo

The Short-term Housing Problem Made Worse by Paris City Hall

When it comes to short-term housing, the situation is even more bleak in Paris thanks to a law that forbids renting out your furnished apartment for less than one year, unless it’s your primary residence. Lately, the city has been cracking down on vacation rentals in Paris, blaming that industry for the current housing shortage. I’m not so sure about that; I’m more inclined to believe that the true culprit, much like in New York, is the sweeping gentrification transforming the city—uncontrolled and under-regulated property development ravaging working class neighborhoods at an alarming rate. But this is a topic for another day.

I had a helluva time finding affordable housing for my stay, and in the end, I had to cobble some things together, relying on the kindness of friends and strangers—three different apartments during my three months here. That’s a lot of moving around but I’m grateful just to have a roof over my head. I’ve decided to make an adventure of it, and I’ll be writing about the experience. Stay tuned for more about that.

A Conundrum for the Locals

All this has me wondering what Parisians do if they need short-term housing due to an emergency, or unforeseen change in circumstance, like a fire? Or, say…I dunno…a leak that renders their home unlivable? Hotels are even more expensive than rentals, and many will not let you stay months at a time. I’m fortunate to have options, but most Parisians earn less than 1500 euros a month. The city makes it nearly impossible—and illegal—for Parisians to house themselves temporarily. And with landlords keeping apartments empty rather than comply with costly regulations, it’s no wonder there’s a housing shortage, though City Hall seems to have blinders on as to the real root causes. I experienced some of those root causes first hand, and they had nothing to do with short-term rentals. Actually, if it weren’t for them, I’d be out in the cold.

Coming up: Follow the life of a nomad in Paris—I’ll be giving you a tour of each of the apartments I’ll be staying in, and showing you the neighborhoods as I discover them. Allons-y ! Read Part II here.

Note: Since writing this post, Paris City Hall has conducted what they call a “blitz” of 80 short-term apartments in the Marais and St.-Germain-des-Près districts Paris, literally barging into people’s private property to search and serve papers if they find the apartment is rented by a short-term tenant. (Short-term in Paris is less than one year, remember, so even a tenant here on business for eight months is a violation.) Meanwhile, large hotel chains are taking advantage of this, getting their foot into the “apart-hotel” industry. Foreign-owned Ascott Limited has announced it will open 10,000 new rental apartments throughout Europe. Once again, short-sighted policies hurt the individual and create opportunities for corporations to profit while the city makes it impossible for the “little guy” to get ahead. The city is creating a situation where profits will move out of Paris—and out of the pockets of the people. How does this help the economy, or the affordable housing shortage? And for visitors to Paris, say goodbye to affordable stays. If this outrages you, there is a petition that seeks to address this issue with Paris City Hall. Sign here.

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10 responses to “A Nomad in Paris, Part I

  1. Sacre bleu! Mon dieu!

    Seriously, this is BS. Government regulations (in France as in the US), originally intended to protect citizens, have become unbearable obstacles to people enjoying life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    • Yes, often I hear Parisians complaining about how nearsighted the laws are. Most just find a way to work around them. But the idea of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is purely American. In France, the motto is “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” which translates to more socialist ideals.

  2. I LOVED the post and see s movie and book about your adventures. Each of your apartment have a magical quality about them. No doubt your mom had a hand in that. How is your writing coming and when do you begin working on your videos with Van’s boyfriend?

    • Thank you my friend. Rewrites have been submitted to my editor. We start shooting the webisode series July 1! Let’s carry this convo on in more private surroundings.

  3. Thanks for the edifiying update. Your trip through the looking glass makes for fascinating reading. I so look forward to each episode, (having flirted with, but failed to find a purchase in Paris).

  4. Pingback: A Nomad in Paris, Part II: My Patch of Heaven | My (Parttime) Paris Life·

  5. Pingback: A Nomad in Paris, Part III: A Tiny, Happy Place to Belong | My (Parttime) Paris Life·

  6. Pingback: A Tiny, Happy Place to Belong 2 | My (Parttime) Paris Life·

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