From April 2021 to March 2022, 496.900 housing units have been authorized for construction, according to the latest estimates from the Ministry of Ecological Transition. A figure that has only been exceeded twice since 2013 (in October 2017 and February 2018).
This is significantly more than before the health crisis. And in the first quarter of 2022 alone, the quarterly number of building permits issued (141.900) has never been so high for 15 years, notes the ministry.
Over twelve months, we are approaching the symbolic bar of 500.000 new homes, considered by many professionals in the sector as the pace of construction to be achieved.
Because demand is still strong and supply does not follow, fueling the constant increase in real estate prices, especially individual houses. Housing is already the number one item of expenditure for the French, who are increasingly concerned about their purchasing power, in the midst of inflationary pressure.
Avoid the overhead
But the high number of building permits is probably a sham. “This sharp increase in authorizations (especially for individual housing) comes from the exceptional number of permit applications submitted in December 2021”, underlines the ministry.
And it "probably" reflects an influx of building permit applications before the entry into force, on January 1, 2022, of more stringent environmental standards for new buildings, the so-called "RE2020" regulations.
This regulation requires new homes to be better insulated against cold and heat and to have a moderate impact on the climate.
"Many investors, first-time buyers, have reserved housing or individual houses, especially at the end of 2021, to avoid entering the RE2020, therefore surely to have a price increase", explains to the AFP Olivier Salleron, president of the French Building Federation (FFB), who estimates between 7 and 8% the additional cost of the RE2020 in 2022.
Individual houses and housing estates are experiencing the most significant increases in building permits. There are several explanations for this: firstly, according to the ministry, the processing times for permits being longer for buildings, the requests for December are not yet visible in the statistics.
Another provision that came into force on January 1 can also explain the December rush: the first stage of the zero net artificialisation (ZAN) objective, which aims to halve the rate of nibbling of natural spaces compared to the 2012 period. -2021.
Logically, individual houses, which consume more land than collective housing, are more concerned by this objective.
"It is at odds with the imagination of the house and the garden, and I think people rushed not to miss the window of opportunity", commented for AFP Sabine Brunel, director Deputy of the Sustainable Real Estate Observatory.
Housing starts, which are usually a few months behind building permits, are also progressing according to the ministry's estimates, but at a much slower pace.
In question, the turbulence suffered by the construction sector: problems with the supply of building materials, order books already well loaded... and lack of qualified labor for more ecological construction sites.
"Either we don't have the arms, or we don't have the people who want to go there, or we don't have the materials; or else more expensive", summarizes Sabine Brunel.