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Second homes For Members

What is France's 'law to ban second homes'?

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
What is France's 'law to ban second homes'?
Workers construct a house in the Calvados département in France.(Photo by MYCHELE DANIAU / AFP)

French politicians are proposing restricting second-homes in the country - here's what the bill says and its chances of becoming law.

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A bill that has been described as a 'law to ban second homes' has been making its way through the French parliament - although the legislation is less draconian than it sounds.

The proposed law would allow municipalities where more than 15 percent of properties are second homes to restrict new-builds to only be used as 'primary residences'.

However, it would not stop people from turning their existing primary residence into a second home or holiday home, nor does it stop anyone from purchasing an already-built home and using it as a second home.

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Local authorities would instead be able to establish certain zones where construction of new properties could only be for main residences.

READ MORE: Is your French property a main residence or a second home (and why it matters)?

Many coastal towns in France have more than 15 percent of their properties as second homes while parts of the Alps, Pyrenees, and Corsica are known for having a lot of holiday homes. For example, in the town of Germ, in the Hautes-Pyrénées 97 percent of properties are second homes.

Meanwhile, coastal towns like Le Barcarès (in the Pyrénées-Orientales département in southern France) and Cabourg (in Calvados, northern France) have 80 percent of their properties listed as second homes.

In those areas locals face severe housing shortages, or simply being priced out of the property market.

In total, almost 10 percent of dwellings in France are second homes. The vast majority of them are owned by French people but British, German, Dutch, Belgian and American buyers are well represented.

What are the chances of the bill becoming law?

First introduced in April 2023 by French MPs from the centrist Renaissance and and centre-left Socialiste parties, the bill - which also includes restrictions on renting property out via Airbnb - has already passed the Assemblée Nationale (in January 2024) and the Senate on May 21st.

The next step is for the bill to be examined by the Joint Parliamentary Committee (Commission Mixte Paritaire). This was scheduled for June 24th. However, as French President Emmanuel Macron recently called snap parliamentary elections - due to take place on June 30th and July 7th - current bills working their way through parliament have been put on hold.

Even if it does end up getting passed, some lawmakers believe that the bill will be restricted by France's Constitutional Council, based on a right to property, as discussed as early as 1789 in France's 'Declaration of the Rights of Man'. 

MP Iñaki Echaniz from the centre-left Parti Socialistes, who helped to table the bill initially, told the French press that the Council may therefore find the 15 percent threshold to be too broad.

Initially, the Assemblée National had set the threshold to areas with 20 percent of houses being second homes, but the Senate dropped this down to 15 percent.

There is another complicated aspect to the law - the question of how long the home would need to remain a dedicated primary residence before the owner would be able to switch its designation.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about having a second home in France

Are there other restrictions on second homes?

Areas that have the designation zone tendue - meaning an area with a housing shortage - have extra local powers when it comes to second homes.

To be officially designated by the government as a zone tendue, local authorities must be able to show that the area has a housing shortage, or that locals are priced out of the market.

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Areas with zone tendue status have the power to impose a surcharge on the taxe d'habitation on second-homes of up to 60 percent. And they do. Saint-Tropez said in 2023 that it would use an estimated €3 million raised in property taxes on second and holiday properties to build affordable homes for local residents.

READ MORE: Where in France are locals protesting about second-home owners?

On top of that, the taxe d'habitation itself has been phased out for primary residences, but it is still charged to second home owners.

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