When the cinema seizes the fight against the merchants of sleep


Water is dripping from the kitchen ceiling, the stairwell is literally flooded, non-compliant electrical installations, like these cables hanging down, are obvious. A leak penetrated apartments in the Bernardins district, a real unhealthy city. And yet, tenants have to pay €153.50 for a waterlogged car park or more than €50 in charges for an elevator that has been out of order for 10 years.

” READ ALSO – Ile-de-France would house more than 370,000 people in unfit housing

The film The promises, screened this Tuesday in preview, in the presence of the National Agency for Urban Renewal, Anru, the National Housing Agency, Anah, France Urbaine and Emmanuelle Wargon, the Minister of Housing, and in theaters on January 26, is not a documentary but it nevertheless shows with extreme precision the problem of slum landlords, owners who buy unsanitary properties at low prices and rent them out, while being aware of the state deplorable of these accommodations.

The feature film was partly shot in Clichy-sous-Bois, in Seine-Saint-Denis (93), in the city of Chêne Pointu, with extras from Clichy. Photo credit: PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP

The story? Clémence Collombet, mayor of a town in Seine-Saint-Denis (93), is fighting a fierce battle to save the Bernardins district, an unhealthy city from which slum dealers take advantage. Indeed, the more the city deteriorates, the cheaper the owners will buy the apartments. Clémence, played by actress Isabelle Huppert, is fighting to obtain 63 million euros of public money to renovate these deteriorated housing. Two parallel worlds are displayed: that of dilapidated buildings and that of the golden palace of Matignon where the fate reserved for the City of Bernardins must be decided.

Private housing in difficulty

We met mayors of several towns including Grigny and Chanteloup-les-Vignes, who explained to us how slum merchants work. We wanted to put the subject of housing at the heart of this film, which tells things about the suburbs“, explains director Thomas Kruithof. This little-known theme of cinema is nevertheless connected to reality. “The film focuses on private housing in difficulty, but when we talk about degraded housing in housing estates, we often think of social housing while private condominiums are the most difficult to rehabilitate.. This reality exists and we often ignore it“, applauds Emmanuelle Wargon, the Minister of Housing.

In France, the potentially unfit private stock is estimated at 420,000 unfit or degraded housing. Photo credit: PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP

The feature film was partly shot in Clichy-sous-Bois, in Seine-Saint-Denis (93), in the city of Chêne Pointu, with extras from Clichy. Olivier Klein, mayor of Clichy-sous-Bois, wondered “if a film on degraded condominiums would interest anyone“, when the screenwriter Jean-Baptiste Delafon, also co-author of the series Black Baron, had explained to him his approach. And yet, after seeing the film, he recognizes that he has achieved his goal.

Less than 100 convictions per year

In France, the potentially unfit private stock is estimated at 420,000 unfit or degraded housing. Nearly 52% of these homes belong to private landlords“, underlines the impact study of the Elan law. Sleep trading activity is difficult to quantify statistically, according to this same study. No numerical estimate of the phenomenon can be proposed.

Renting unfit housing is however an offense like drug trafficking. The sleep merchant risks five years in prison and a fine of 150,000 euros for “accommodation incompatible with human dignity” or three years in prison and a fine of 100,000 euros for “undue collection of rents”, according to the penal code (article 225 -14). The housing law provides for the systematic confiscation of real estate from slum landlords and their compensation for expropriation.

Local elected officials engage in a merciless fight against the sleep merchants and sometimes even go as far as legal proceedings, but “in 50% of cases, complaints are not investigated. And in the files that go to the end, it takes three or four years to have a conviction“, declared Stéphane Peu, PC deputy for Seine-Saint-Denis, to Figaro in 2017. A little less than a hundred convictions are pronounced each year.

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