Saying that a “shock of solidarity” was needed to find homes for families given the “disturbing” shortage of available lodgings, Duflot promised to requisition space from the church and other institutions by the end of the year.
“All institutions — banks, insurance companies, the church — who are in a position of owning buildings that are unoccupied, are involved in the call, which is mine, to make available places that will allow the housing of families,” she said.
As part of her campaign, Duflot made public an appeal she had made to the Archbishop of Paris, André Vingt-Trois.
The church responded with a broadside aimed at the 37-year-old Green party member.
“The church did not wait for the threat of requisition by the minister Madame Duflot to take initiatives,” the Catholice diocese of Paris and Corref, a religious organization, said in a joint statement.
The groups said they were “mobilized to come to the aid of the homeless”.
Camille Bedin, of the Opposition UMP, condemned Duflot’s declarations, while praising the work done by the church to help the poor.
Bedin said the minister was looking for scapegoats and making speeches “rather than looking for structural responses to a problem that occurs every year.”
The UMP critic said if Duflot was looking to requisition space she should look at the real estate portfolio of the state and local governments.
The minister’s comments come after the satirical magazine Canard Enchainé revealed last month that the church had a large number of buildings in Paris that were empty or two-thirds empty most of the time.
Duflot’s office maintains that the Catholic church isn’t being singled out and that other institutions, including public ones, are also being asked to free up vacant space for those without shelter.