Living in Paris as a person of color

Finding property in Paris is much more difficult if you are a person of color. An unprecedented survey by French NGO network SOS Racisme has revealed how systemic forms of prejudice and discrimination are worsening in the housing market in France.

One day, Nicolas and Fatima – two individuals who earn the same salary, with the same level of education and native French skills – decided to look for apartments because they had both moved to Paris.

They contacted a real estate agency and started submitting their applications online. They prepared a big file, a detailed explanation of their financial stability, their family, their education, their cultural background, bank statements and finally a copy of their passport with the residence card.

“How can skin color still affect your quality of life in 2022? Is it something related to the politics of France?”

Nicolas was asked when he could move in, so he did and within a month he moved into a nice apartment in the center of Paris. Fatima was asked to pay one year in advance as a security deposit.

Fatima is Algerian but she speaks French fluently. She ended up staying in an Airbnb for four months until she managed to find an apartment in Saint-Denis, north of Paris – where she still had to pay a two-month deposit in advance before to call Saint-Denis at home.

France has a long checkered history with citizens labeled as ‘people of color’ [Getty Images]

Cases like this are common if you’re Algerian or Moroccan, unless you’re moving to a populated area of ​​Africa outside of Paris or paying six months or a year’s rent up front.

In March 2022, the French newspaper The Parisian released a report by the SOS Racism organization that aims to highlight and emphasize racial discrimination in France and how to abolish it.

The report revealed that one in four agencies agree to screen potential tenants on the basis of a prejudicial criterion and that discriminatory practices are alive and well in property in France, indicating that many landlords prefer a certain sect or race. to another to live on their property.

How to catch a racist? You have to ask and the answer is by pretending to be one.

Several activists from SOS Racism contacted by telephone 136 agencies posing as landlords with discriminatory demands on their future tenants.

The shocking result

While they would meet all the solvency conditions, people of sub-Saharan or North African origin have a one in two chance of contacting an agency that would agree to practice or allow discrimination against them, according to the SOS survey.

The details are harder to hear, one agency in four refuses to make the selection itself but lets the owner choose his future tenants by not accepting Arab or black profiles to avoid neighborhood problems. According to the SOS sample which included 32 agencies out of 136.

Another finding is that one agency in four agrees to directly select potential tenants on the basis of a racially discriminatory criterion.

Another finding is that one out of two agencies refuses to select on the basis of a racially discriminatory criterion, i.e. 70 out of 136 agencies. All the agencies included in the sample belong to the FNAIM network, but also to Century 21, guy Hocquet, Stéphane Plaza or Orpi again.

When you try to interview other agencies for The new Arabicsome Parisian agencies refused to participate in this article.

Three years ago, another survey was made available by SOS Racism where 51% of rental agencies in the capital region of France accepted their own discriminatory demands.

SOS Racism is a movement of NGOs that call themselves anti-racist. The oldest chapter of SOS Racism was founded in 1984 in France, and it has counterparts in several other countries or regions of Europe.

Faced with this finding, SOS Racism calls for various measures, including a “strengthening of criminal sanctions in the event of discrimination”, but also the “implementation of a disciplinary order” by restoring “the disciplinary function of the National Council for Property Transactions and Management, abolished by the Elan law of 2018 »

To find accommodation in the Paris region and its metropolises, all candidates are not on an equal footing, an Asian profile is 15% less likely to have accommodation than a person of former French origin, and a someone of North African origin is 28% less likely and someone from overseas or sub-Saharan Africa is 38% less likely to live the Parisian dream.

Dominique Sopo released a statement in 2019 who is the president of the SOS association on racial discrimination in the housing market and simply said “enough is enough”.

“Landlords generally prefer to rent to people who look like them, and what I mean by that is people who look like them”

Emmanuel Dupuy, the president of the Institute for Prospective and Security in EuropeI said The new Arabic that “this type of real estate racism is not only found in France, but it is also, in fact, systemic in urban European cities. There are several factors that contribute to this such as financial conditions, different characteristics of neighborhoods, populations leaving city centers and moving to more open spaces in the suburbs, an increase in bureaucracy in the centers, and these racist phenomena in housing have emerged all over Europe and there are organizations like Caritas, or SOS Racism who are fighting this, France is not alone in this case.”

Despite being one of the most desirable places in Europe, Paris is nonetheless marred by a housing market that favors some people over others. [Getty Images]

Ümit Dönmez, editor-in-chief of Global News commented on this question from personal experience as he covered this same story for his post.

He said: “As a person of darker color and as a Muslim, I have personally been discriminated against so many times. Since my childhood and with such caricatural situations, we could make films out of them. But I don’t want to go into the details of all this. I have also lived for many years in the UK, and I have been the victim of several incidents there, but not as many as in France, and not so extreme or brutal.

“In France, and since September 11, the trend has become clearer, as it may also be in the United Kingdom. Xenophobia was on the rise, certain factors contributed to the rise of this type of discrimination in France, like the media here where many independent media outlets have been bought off by far-right French billionaires or French conservatives with their vision of what France should look like.

“As a result, state media turned this racist act into a trend by giving voice to xenophobic ideas like the interview of former presidential candidate Eric Zemmour which finished last with just 7% of the total vote. and never made it past the first round. This trend has led to hate speech from populist politicians which, in turn, has led to the spreading and sharing of far-right ideologies in conversations in the public media.

Nadia Cherif Raghuibi, a business consultant and radio host who has worked in many business and financial institutions and dealt with Arabs and foreigners, shared her experience on this subject, saying that racism exists in real estate and is become a big problem because there is a gap between tourism and permanent housing in France.”

She added: “Airbnb is easy but for permanent accommodation it’s a bit more complicated, last week I witnessed something that happened with an Arab student who was asked by her French landlord to pay 1 year’s rent in advance as a security deposit and that’s unusual. I think real estate in France is competitive and French laws are more supportive of tenants than landlords, even though tenants pay their rent in late, landlords will not easily evict tenants.

“Landlords generally prefer to rent to people who look like them, and what I mean by that is that people who look like them and think it’s consistent will guarantee that their rent will be paid on time, unlike Arabs or Africans who will not do the same thing which is not right.”

“The French colonial past has had its share of impact on racial discrimination, as it can be found in every business, every household, every institution in France and it varies in level and type, xenophobia is directly the result of France’s slave policy”

Going back in time, if one wonders why immigrants or expatriates face racism, MRAP president Francois Sautery could easily answer that question by focusing on the historical legacies of France’s colonial past.

“The French colonial past has had its share of impact on racial discrimination, as it can be found in every business, every household, every institution in France and it varies in level and type, xenophobia is directly the result of France’s slave policy.

“The end of the Algerian war, the fear experienced by thousands of young French people in mainland France, and the return of returnees sometimes under the constraint of the organization of the secret army explain anti-Arab racism.”

The new Arabic contacted Corinne Jolly, the president of PAP.Fr an online rental agency and a database that offers rentals available throughout France.

When asked about racism, Jolly had a different impression. “We do not personally discriminate or measure racial profiling, on the contrary, racism overall has decreased. We have long had a great diversity among our real estate advisors.

“Twenty years ago, some consultants chose to ‘Frenchify’ their first name to avoid disparaging remarks from our clients. This is no longer the case. In addition, we also have more diversity among the owners. a generation ago are now owners. This proves that behind the hype, integration is on the way. »

When asked if Jolly had witnessed any racial discrimination claims from apartment seekers or landlords, she replied: ‘We review all advertisements and do not allow the use of no discriminatory language. We also inform many places on our website of the penalties incurred in the event of discriminatory practices.

“Indeed, very few landlords still try to include discriminatory language in their listings, which proves that they know it is illegal. In addition, we encourage tenants to complete a rental file with the objective criteria to be taken into account when looking for accommodation (income, professional situation, guarantees), and when this file is completed, we offer it to the owner. The objective is to put factual and objective criteria before any other form of criteria.

Despite the cases of discrimination that occur in France, several organizations and companies are working on its demolition, which could mean that if another Fatima or another Mohamad decides to live in Paris, it may be easier.

Farah AlHashem is an award-winning Kuwaiti-Lebanese filmmaker and journalist based in Paris.

Follow her on Twitter: @AlhashemFarah

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