While student housing had been growing more expensive for a number of years in France, it appears that the upward trend has finally come to a halt in 2014. This is good news for students—except Parisians. Student housing in Paris remains very expensive, unmoved by the broader movements in costs.
A long-awaited fall in price
While finding the perfect apartment is never easy for students, parents often struggle to stomach the housing costs, which have been a concern for years in France. Prices this year are finally dropping, however, according to a study carried out using data from Location-etudiant.fr, a real-estate website specializing in student housing. Prices decreased in 13 of the 20 cities examined in the study. In Toulouse, for example, prices fell 15 percent, while in Marseille and Nice they fell 12 percent. Brice Boullet, founder of Location-etudiant.fr, commented:
Nous assistons à un phénomène de baisse sans précédent ces dix dernières années sur les petites surfaces. Comparés à leur niveau d’août 2013, les loyers d’août 2014 ont amorcé une baisse qui se généralise dans les grandes villes françaises à l’exception de Paris.
We are witnessing a decline in prices for small apartments that is unprecedented in the last ten years. Compared to August 2013, rents in August 2014 have begun to fall in all big cities except Paris.
Paris bucks the trend
The problem of student rents has not improved in Paris. In fact, unlike the rest of the country, it's become even worse. The average monthly rent for a studio is now at 744 euros (about $940 USD), a 0.5 percent increase over last year. The rent for a one-bedroom apartment averages 1,249 euros (more than $1,500), a 3.7 percent increase over last year.
Ironically, the principal reason for the increase is student grants, which have permitted landlords to raise prices. ALUR, a rent-control law passed this year, has failed to achieve sensible limits on the rent of small apartments. Boullet remarks:
Ces lois ne suscitent aucune inquiétude chez les bailleurs. D’abord parce qu’elles sont inefficaces : l’État n’a pas les moyens d’en contrôler le respect, tout le monde le sait. Et plus un loyer est cher, plus l’étudiant a d’aides.
Landlords aren't losing any sleep over these laws. Firstly, they're ineffective: everybody knows the state doesn't have the means to control rent. And the more expensive the rent is, the more students get help.
The situation in Paris seems to be at an impasse, given that the demand for student housing won't fall anytime soon. Perhaps a radical situation might require a radical solution: the government could lower student grants to dissuade students from living in housing they cannot afford. Confronted with the ensuing drop in demand, landlords would then have to lower rents or risk losing more tenants. This plan, however, risks a revolt among students first, and landlords second.