What Monegasques think about housing in the Principality

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Monaco Tribune

We asked for your opinions on the subject, and many of you shared your experiences with us.

It is one of the greatest challenges facing the Principality: to meet the growing demand for housing, over an area of two square kilometres, while balancing the need to remain attractive to foreign residents with the need to ensure that every Monegasque is housed as a priority.

The Prince’s Government and the National Council have tried to provide some initial responses to the issue through the Plan National Logement (PNL – National Housing Plan), But what do the main people concerned, namely the Monegasques, think? Many of our readers have shared their stories and suggested ways to improve.

Better allocation, for more choice

First of all, by giving future tenants more choice.  Sylvie regrets that the current system “does not take people’s real needs into account and [that Monegasques have] no choice.” Kentin agrees, saying he is “not satisfied at all. Finding a place to live is a nightmare, and when we get offered something, we have no choice, it’s take it or leave it! It’s a disgrace!!! It makes you want to move to France, at least there’s a choice of apartments there.”

Another Internet user also contacted us by private message. He feels it is necessary to reallocate housing according to the number of occupants, but rents must be adjusted accordingly: “Flats should fit the size of the household and once the children have left, the flat should be put back into the rental market for families who need one. There are pensioners living alone in five-room apartments, while families with three children are stuck in three-room flats waiting for this type of property to become available. Which means that the rent has to be adjusted. I have the example of a person who has had a 4-room flat for 38 years and pays €700/month. Today she lives alone. But she cannot/will not move because while the 2 or 3 room flats on offer are certainly smaller, they are more expensive, even with the ANL [National Housing Aid] so she won’t budge. It’s this mobility that needs to be encouraged.”

In a second phase, he feels the solution could lie in actually occupying properties: “I think we should “host” Monegasques who have a property in France and who live there 80% of the time but keep a flat in Monaco for tax reasons, and therefore tie it up. This prevents first-time buyers from having access to properties, for example.  I advocate creating a post office box to enable these people to have an address in Monaco without tying up an apartment. There are a lot of avenues to explore, but we can’t keep expanding the state-owned park without addressing the mobility issue. The CHC [Contrat Habitation-Capitalisation, which makes it possible to obtain the right to live in a state-owned flat in exchange for the repayment of a loan to the Monegasque State, Ed.] is an example of this.  You “buy” your flat, so some people in old properties can have their 5-room apartment, whereas new buyers in the new developments cannot, or with difficulty, because the property price is calculated using different criteria. Prices for a 4-room 120m2 flat can vary from €200k to more than €600k.”

SEE ALSO: Real estate: 50,000€/m2 barrier broken

Lavie, on the other hand, suggests a different approach: “What is an unsatisfactory allocation for one, may be right for someone else. More choice of neighbourhood and number of rooms (to suit needs). Choice of taking out a CHC or renting. Income-based, but with a range of possibilities. Income varies over the course of a lifetime. Sometimes downwards, sometimes upwards. There should be a kind of state estate agency.  It would unclog the system.”

“Redesign the allocation system  … or add a zero to earnings. We need to get back to the real world and not the one senior civil servants imagine,” Victoria adds.

The issue of divorced parents

Another consequence of this lack of housing choices is that tenants are sometimes forced to accept a flat that is not suited to their needs, or is even run down. Nathalie, who is retired from the civil service, contacted us by phone and told us her story.

“My grandfather worked in the estate administration office.  At the time, they said “the Government should not make money off the backs of Monegasques and Monegasques should not be on benefits all their lives.”  Unfortunately, that’s what’s happening right now ,” she regrets.

This is because rents are still too expensive, despite the ANL, since it doesn’t take the – very high – service charges into account. “The rich are given superb housing with a lower ANL, and normal people, average Monegasques, are left with basement flats or ones that nobody wants,” adds Nathalie.

Nathalie has been living in state-owned housing in Fontvieille since 1985 and has seen the situation deteriorate completely over the past 40 years. Today, she is fighting on behalf of her 10-year-old granddaughter: “My granddaughter belongs to the eleventh generation of Monegasques in my family. My son did not marry her mother, so my former daughter-in-law does not have Monegasque citizenship. After the separation, my 10-year-old granddaughter was evicted from her home and told to move to France. And believe me, that really sticks in my throat! My ex-daughter-in-law is a cleaning lady in a school, she earns 1,800 euros a month and she was given an apartment in Monaco-Ville that costs 1,850 euros. My granddaughter is ten years old and has never had her own room. My son has a two-roomed flat, he has always been refused a three-roomed flat because he has joint custody. The mother has a converted two-room apartment: her bedroom is in a basement with no window. There was no electricity at the start. I took pictures: there is damp everywhere, mould on the walls… She was forced to accept it or she would have been out on the street. I went to social services and was told that she just needed to do the inventory for the owner to carry out the work. I think that 1,850 euros in rent should entitle you to the basics.  I was also told that since the little one is a minor, she doesn’t have a say. However, during the elections, Mr Stéphane Valeri did say that ALL Monegasques must be well housed in their country. Well that’s not the case. Because all the divorced women who do not have citizenship get kicked out with the children.”

Nathalie goes even further. She believes this problem could become widespread: “Today, people get divorced much more than before, you don’t really get 30 or 40 year marriages any more. But if we kick our children out, there won’t be a Monegasque on the Place du Palais for November 19th in 20 years’ time. Because all these young people, who will have been raised in Cap d’Ail, Villefranche or Menton, won’t have any love for the country.  They won’t have spent their childhood in Monaco. Before, there was a law that said all Monegasque minors should stay in the apartment, even if the mother was not Monegasque. But when they came of age, or if the minor left home, or if the mother was remarried to a foreigner, the flat was taken back, which was perfectly normal. Today that is no longer the case.”

Nathalie believes two solutions are necessary: making the housing more basic, and redesigning the allocation system. ” We don’t need all this luxury, with four bathrooms, and marble from I don’t know where… Those who want luxury can use the private sector. Monegasques do not necessarily want a lot, just to be comfortably housed. (…) We must also revise the points system. If we turn down an apartment that we have been offered, for a legitimate reason, we get points deducted and we can’t make another application for 3 years.”

After contacting the National Council and receiving no response, Nathalie is now turning to the Prince’s Palace, hoping to see her granddaughter’s situation finally improve.

SEE ALSO: Commission Testimonio II: how to apply for state-owned housing

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The National Council’s reaction

Franck Lobono, President of the Housing Committee in the National Council, examined these accounts. Here is his answer :

“I was very interested to read the comments made by some Monegasques about state housing. Overall, when they mention the attribution system, I share their opinion and my recent article on your website echoes many of the comments. As I have already said, I agree that the allocation system should be reviewed because it is too rigid and does not take into account the wishes of individual applicants.

We can find a better allocation method to take into account everyone’s needs, wishes and means. Monaco is the only modern country in the world where the vast majority of its citizens are housed by the State, in a flat that is determined by an administrative department! This is also why I am opposed to systematically applying penalties for the first refusal.

However, I think that everything needs to be done in the right order. Until now, the priority has been building, to make up for lost time and reduce the shortage of homes. From 2023, we should enter a new phase because the apartments will be completed. It is at this point that we must have the courage to transform the system, reviewing the allocation method and encouraging mobility! We could not do this previously, and I will give you a concrete example. Given the lack of three-room flats, how could we encourage the mobility of a retired couple (occupying too large a flat) towards a three-room flat, while we had a young couple in a two-room flat, or even without accommodation, with a child, waiting for a three-room flat? The urgency was to provide the child with a bedroom rather than take back a large apartment. 

By the end of 2023, we will have a sufficient number of apartments. It is at this point that a new allocation method can be put in place. I have many ideas on this subject and I am certain that Monegasques will support our approach when we allow them to better choose their housing, either for a first allocation, or for a move, which will be much easier within the state-owned housing stock.

Changing the allocation method is a complex and ambitious project. It will call into question the way several departments function. It will have to be done in close consultation with the whole administration, but it must be done in the next few years. I am very much in favour of this and with President Valeri, we will do our utmost to meet the legitimate demands of the Monegasques.

However, cards on the table. It is also important to understand that not all flats in the state-owned portfolio can be provided at the same price. It is only logical that the latest constructions with a sea view are more expensive than apartments in older buildings in La Condamine or Fontvieille, for example. What matters is that the allocation system enables everyone to be well housed in an apartment that suits them.

The current allocation method also has implications for CHCs. By systematically sending the latest applicants to live in the most recently completed and therefore most expensive buildings, the State is preventing a large number of Monegasques from ever being able to take out a CHC because the price of their flat is too high! Most are housed via the ANL, but can no longer take out a CHC. This forces them to remain tenants, when it would be more logical to allocate to each Monegasque an apartment that corresponds to their real financial capacity, based on their income, without having to resort extensively to the ANL. Diversifying the housing stock should enable this, especially as the apartments we recover are of very good quality, since they are completely refurbished before being rented out again. In the future, more consideration should be given to these flats.

Not everyone can or wants to take out a CHC, but the allocation system must allow those who wish to do so to be better routed towards an apartment on which they can contract a CHC.

Better stock management, with more flexible and rational allocations, should also make it possible to keep a rein on the enormous investments that the National Housing Plan will require in the future.”