How Paris Improved Sustainability and Livability In Its Public Housing

Over the last decade, the city has made massive investments in retrofitting 'social housing' with minimal disruptions and displacement of residents.

October 11, 2021, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Tour Montparnasse

Marielle Landor / Shutterstock

New York City's public housing, in recent years seen as "a poster child of environmental injustice and government neglect," could soon receive the funding it needs to improve energy efficiency and habitability for its residents. Colin Kinninburgh examines the positive example set by Paris, a city that "has been retrofitting thousands of public housing units per year for more than a decade" and which offers "insights into how American housing authorities like NYCHA could make essential repairs while also reducing building emissions, and respecting tenants’ rights during tricky renovations."

In the past ten years, Paris has made a concerted effort to "align social housing with its larger climate goals," due in part to Mayor Anne Hidalgo's focus on improving social housing and making Paris a more sustainable city. "Some of the city’s oldest and largest developments have been buzzing with construction as social housing agencies replace everything from cracked tiles to elevators to heating systems in a bid to make these buildings both more habitable and more energy efficient." In many cases, Paris has carried out renovations without displacing residents for more than a few days at a time and without resorting to privatization, "thanks to a combination of funding from the city, state, and France’s public investment bank." At the Mercadet apartments, which required more complex renovations lasting several months, residents have been able to stay within the complex and experience minimal disruption to their lives as the building undergoes improvements such as "replacing doors, windows, elevators, and boilers; remodeling bathrooms; installing new ventilation systems; and re-insulating interior walls with cork, a natural and deeply sustainable material."

In the U.S., housing authorities face the challenge of "rebuilding trust, as decades of mismanagement and outright fraud have left tenant organizers skeptical that agencies like NYCHA are prepared to spend a massive infusion of federal dollars wisely," even if the new infrastructure package delivers the promised public housing funds. Advocates "are adamant that any new spending to restore public housing is conditioned on keeping it fully public, and not shifting tenants to Section 8 vouchers."

Wednesday, September 29, 2021 in Grist

Single-Family Housing Construction

New White House Housing Initiative Includes Zoning Reform Incentives

The Biden administration this morning released a new program of actions intended to spur housing construction around the United States.

May 16, 2022 - The White House

A conceptual rendering of three high-speed rail trains. The middle train is orange; the other two are black.

The California High-Speed Rail Project Illustrates America’s Transit Issues

Slow progress and a bloated budget have plagued the High-Speed Rail project linking San Francisco to Los Angeles, exposing deeper issues with American transit projects.

May 22, 2022 - Eric Carlson

San Francisco Houses

‘Mega-Landlords’ Threaten Housing Stability for Renters

As institutional investors buy up a larger share of single-family homes, the families renting them are increasingly vulnerable to rent increases and eviction.

May 15, 2022 - The Hill

Liquid natural gas tanker in Klaipeda, Lithuania

Europe's New Energy Infrastructure Begins to Emerge

When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin hoped to quickly redraw national boundary lines in Eastern Europe. The region's energy infrastructure, particularly pipelines carrying natural gas, may change sooner.

2 hours ago - POLITICO Europe

An electric bicycle is shown with the legs of a human who is riding the e-bike.

Making the Case for E-Bikes

A new white paper lays the groundwork for better e-bike incentive programs.

3 hours ago - Streetsblog USA

A vacant department store in Coolidge, Arizona.

How To Slow the Wave of Commercial Vacancies

Empty storefronts depress property values and suppress small business growth. What can cities do to fill these vacancies?

5 hours ago - Next City

HUD’s 2022 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Expanding HUD’s Eviction Protection Grant Program

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.