Officials in Paris are currently in the midst of an effort to open public housing in some of the city's richest neighborhoods. This new interview with Ian Brossat—a housing advisor to the mayor of Paris and member of the Communist Party who is pushing for diversifying wealthy neighborhoods—is a goddamn inspiration.
Google's translation is a little rough, but it's worth it:
This week, you have laid the foundation stone of a 113 HLM housing in the 16th arrondissement, Rue Saint-Didier. Next Wednesday you start the construction of 76 homes for young workers to Beaujon, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, in the chic 8th. Did you go to war against the upscale neighborhoods?
Not at all. But I wear a very clear message: the ghettos of the rich, it's over! We are committed to produce massively social housing, and primarily in the districts of the center and west that are extremely onerous. There is no reason why certain areas of Paris are reserved for people who pay the ISF. Solidarity has no boundaries, no district can not break free. And there is no question for us to yield to ideological differences and sometimes outrageous. Our determination is stronger.
The inhabitants of these districts may feel stigmatized ...
Fortunately, there are also people opened in the 16th or 7th, which include that rebalancing east-west is essential. Today, 40 percent of social housing in Paris are located in three districts, the 13th, 19th and 20th. It is to correct this historic legacy by putting the package on the central and western. It started with Bertrand Delanoë. We are accelerating with Anne Hidalgo. All major world cities—London, New York, Tokyo—face this problem: how to ensure that employees who work in our cities to live there? This requires the available habitat. Cashiers, nannies, personal hospitality should have the right to live in Paris, including the upscale neighborhoods, which are not intended for them to be banned.
The interviewer then asked Brossat if he understands why some neighborhoods that have long been wealthy enclaves are opposing the effort.
Do you understand the concern of residents in these neighborhoods who feel threatened?
This concern is related to ignorance and fear of the unknown. But we realize quickly enough, in the end, it goes well. We are told that people on low incomes do not want to live in "the rich"; it's wrong! The refusal rate on social housing units in those neighborhoods is particularly low. There is also the fear of some people in a decline in the value of property. In fact, the more they repeat, the more they will portray this social housing as horrible places, plus they cause a drop in property prices. If I have any advice for them is not to feed themselves the image of their neighborhood.
This isn't so different from Seattle neighborhoods' resistance to new development, low-income housing, or homeless encampments. Despite being masked as concerns about parking, shadows, scale, or crime, that resistance amounts to the preservation of well-off single family neighborhoods at the expense of lower income people. Whether it's Seattle or Paris, those attitudes help maintain the segregation of rich and poor neighborhoods. So, who's going to be our Ian Brossat?
When the interviewer asked Brossat about backlash over a homeless shelter project, he pledged to keep supporting the project. He compared it to another, similar effort: "Initially, there was a backlash, and now everything is going very well. This is why we must pass over this opposition and let them live the experience of diversity."