A housing crisis

There are so many empty houses near where we live - you'd think something could be done.

We have been walking the dog very diligently the past few weeks. Under strict orders to get my husband's cholesterol levels down, and also mindful of the fact that the dog's heart condition is helped by exercise, I've been extending the walk by 50 yards or so each day until now we're up to about 5km each lunchtime. Not as long a walk as I'm used to, but for some reason it seems quite enough these days. The menopause is doing my joints no favours at all and sometimes I feel 100 years old. 

On our travels, we've lately been passing a 1970s house of the deep-roofed red-tile style that is quite common around here in the more modern buildings (the older ones, like ours, are stone with slate roofs). But it was a few days before we realised it was quite empty.

In fact it's clearly been empty for some time, as the brambles in the garden are now over six feet high. It is such a shame, and a shame on our culture, too. There are tens of thousands of homeless people in France, and here is a perfectly lovely property, with a beautiful garden, sitting empty, with - doubtless - the family involved in some legal dispute or other, given the lack of primogeniture in France.  

I well remember the elderly couple who used to own it, from the days when I sometimes walked the dog right around the village. She would be working in the garden in her blue overall, and he would be busy in the potager or the polytunnel. I'd give him a cheery wave and he'd cut me dead, the miserable old sod. My mate N called him 'the paedo' because she'd seen him touching up a young girl at the village 'do'. But apparently the woman died and they weren't married, so her family kicked him out. They are Spanish and appear to have no interest in the place. 

And so there the house sits, with its crumbling render and one broken window (curious locals, perhaps), wine bottles and crockery still on the dining table like some weird apocalyptic event has befallen it. The once-lovely garden with its purple acer, big hibiscus bushes, lily of the valley lining the paths, and well-tended apple trees, all gradually disappearing under a forest of bramble and crack willow.

The house next door to it is empty too, then there is one still occupied, with immaculate lawns and hedges, and then a holiday property that nobody visits, with the hedges grown out of control and lawn grass three feet high.  

I would love to see squatters take over these empty properties. Or the commune. Or someone, anyone really, just to bring them back to life again. It seems a disgrace on a house, really, that after people have lived in it, and had emotions and feelings in it, that it is just left to wrack and ruin like this.   



Comments (2)

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Posts: 4
Re: A housing crisis
Reply #2 on : Fri June 07, 2013, 14:32:31
I'm not sure I understand the connection between lack of primogeniture and a family dispute. Don't most estate settle in accordance to the will of the deceased? Are their countries where all property goes to the 1st born son, regardless of the family situation? That seems very middle ages. However, it is a shame to see homes left to ruin. Funnily enough, I was watching a video today of the present state of Liberace's Las Vegas home. It is nearly in ruins and was once a grand and over-decorated self-made palace. Sad.
Posts: 1
Family disputes
Reply #1 on : Sat June 08, 2013, 01:54:00
In France, you can't just leave property to whomever you want - it automatically goes to ALL of your children equally (or any surviving spouse gets half, plus the right to live in it until death - not applicable in this case because the couple were not married). You can only will personal property, not housing. This is good in that it means you can't disinherit your kids just because you don't get on with them, but it can be bad when the children can't decide what to do with the property.
This happens quite a lot around here and properties can be shuttered up for decades while the surviving family members argue about whether to sell it.
Also, no-one can force a sale on anybody else (the same thing happens with divorce - a wife may leave her husband, for instance, but she can't force him to give up the property so she can get her half of the money), and quite often the house is just left to wither and die.
However, if the owners don't pay the property taxes for a certain number of years, the commune can theoretically repossess it and rent it out for social housing.
Sadly, there is also not much need for that around here because there are no jobs, so most of the young people leave for work in the cities. Time was, the Brits would snap up this sort of housing and do it up, but the recession has put paid to all that - many Brits have gone back and no-one is coming over to replace them. We could do with an influx of Germans, but they tend to stick to the east, in areas such as Alsace.