In Wake of Paris Riots, Public Housing Authorities Build More, Better

January 25, 2007

Courtesy Edouard Francois Architect

If last year’s riots Paris riots were horrific, they weren’t surprising.
The banlieue, suburbs like St. Denis, Poissy, and Clichy-sous-Bois, are
pockets of concentrated immigrant poverty and faceless, block-style
building long regarded as tinderboxes for trouble.

Paris has begun building more affordable housing within its borders to
reduce social isolation of those outside.
Almost all of Paris’s social housing authorities have revamped their
building strategies over the past five years. The shift dates to the
inauguration of Mayor Bertrand Delanöe, a socialist and a design
advocate who, with others, knew the banlieue was an issue long before
the riots. The Office Public Patrimoine Construction Réhabilitation
Aménagement Politique, or OPAC, is the largest of these agencies and
offers a good case study. Whereas about 1,500 new apartments were built
per year prior to the new system, that number is now about 4,000, says
Helen Schwoerer, OPAC’s head of public housing architecture. Two-thirds
of OPAC’s work is infill, and the rest is new construction.

The city has also distributed projects over a much wider area of Paris.
Officials from OPAC and other city agencies are working to ensure that
all quarters contain 20 percent public housing, and they have announced
that all new buildings in wealthier quarters must include at least 25
percent affordable housing in their programs.