Special Report: Working-Class Homeownership
The Top-Down Production of Low-Cost Home OwnershipBy Hélène Steinmetz
This paper examines the impact of government action on the rise and fall of low-income home ownership in France. It focuses on the political construction of housing markets, and specifically on how the Ministry of Public Works (Ministère de l’Équipement) stimulated the supply of low-cost single-family homes in the early 1970s by implementing a policy that resulted in the construction of nearly 70,000 houses known as chalandonnettes. Based on records from the ministry, the paper analyzes the role its senior officials played in this policy. In the late 1960s, they had little doubt that direct and centralized government intervention in the production of low-cost housing was the best way to regulate the sudden growth in suburban housing. However, as the balance of power shifted within the public institutions involved in housing policies in the 1970s, this type of public action lost legitimacy and was replaced with a more indirect form of government intervention in the low-cost housing market, which redefined low-income home ownership.