Monday, April 24, 2017

Ecological and organic - but not quite.......

I watched a fairly in-depth documentary on French television last night, featuring two groups of citizens who had decided 'to go ecological'. The first concerned a largish family who had built their own house, using the latest materials, to ensure that it was self-sufficient in terms of heating, cooling and maitenance. They had installed a series of solar panels in the garden (fairly ugly and I am surprised they got planning permission!), had built a water wheel in a fast running nearby stream (unclear who it belonged to or again whether planning permission was sought or given), and were in the process of improving the drain pipes and guttering on their roof to collect rain water in an underground tank.

What I found most disappointing is that their whole set-up was built around producing and consuming meat - chickens were reared for their eggs and their meat, along with several sheep and cows whose destiny was not explained.

The second case study appeared to revolve around hydroponics (growing plants in water rather than in the soild) and again seemed to be centered on producing feed for animals, which were reared for their meat.

What the documentary failed to tell viewers is the high cost of feeding (vegetable) protein - 50% of which goes to feed animals - in order to produce meat (10 grams produce only 1 gram of meat) when it is clearly cheaper and ecologically sound for humans to eat the vegetable proteins direct and reduce the production and consumption of meat, currently estimated at 100kg per person per year in France!

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Monday, April 10, 2017

France - record high property prices?

Two reports in France's LeFigaro* newspaper higlight the continued rise in French property  prices - now at record levels in major French cities, and why it is a good time now to put your property on the market if you are thinking of selling.

First, property prices approaching record levels.  The evidence is onverhwelming, and following a recovery of the property market in 2016 - by over 5% in the Paris area and over 2 per cent elsewhere - the trend seems to be continuing in the first three months of 2017, despite the common belief that election years are bad for property sales (the French go to the polls in two weeks to begin the process of electing a new President and a new parliament).

Paris still holds the record for the highest average price per square metre - currently just over 8,500 euros , followed by Nice (3,800), Lyon (3,440), Bordeaux (3,2776) and Toulouse (2,640). Most of these prices reflect an increase of 5% or more over 2016.

Traditionally springtime and the arrival of warmer weather help boost sales, as buyers prefer to get their house move organised and settle before the July/August holiday break and ahead of the la rentrée in September/October when children return to school and students start at university. Job changes are also popularly organised with a September start in mind and may involve a change of location.

Another group of buyers are the retired who need to get their house hunting done before the July/August recess when second homes may be occupied by their owners or let to summer tenants, and unavaialble for viewing. The traditional holiday period may also delay completion of the property sale as lawyers and much needed public officials themselves go on hliday. Hence the need to get your property selling or buying done before the end of June!


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Thursday, April 6, 2017

French cities going green ....literally!

French cities are vying with each other to create more wide open, green spaces, as part of their effort to combat air pollution and help reduce excessively high temperatures such as those  of the 40 degree heatwave in 2003, responsible for the deaths of over 15,000 people.

Not surprisingly one of the pioneers of this movement is the city of Paris, with a mixture of tree planting, opening up more green spaces and encouraging the installation of 'green roofs' - the use of grass and other vegetation on the roofs of schools, office blocks and other public buildings.

Although the city is well blessed with open spaces, the two largest being the bois de Boulogne and the bois de Vincennes, both located far from the city centre,  Paris lacks a variety of smaller open spaces, easily reachable by the public, for examples during a lunch break.  The two famous bois alone account for 70% of the city's open spaces.

Paris's norther outskirts are particularly short of open spaces and the city also suffers from suburban blight due to the apparently unrestrained development of huge out of town shopping centers which ring the capital, and increasing demands for more transport infrastructure such as roads and rail.

As a result during a typical summer heatwave there can be a difference of 8 degrees or more (higher) between parts of the inner city centre and a typical built-up sector. Cooling these spaces is not cheap and uses large amounts of energy - for example for refrigeration and air conditioning - and to provide insulation and double glazing increases construction costs.

With 75% of French now living in urban areas (compared to the countryside) inner-city pollution is becoming an increasing threat and a drain on healthcare costs. However some successes are already being reported including a reduction of the incidence of asthma.

Another encouraing sign is the growth of healthy eating and organic food production* and the development of small urban 'grow your own' allotments managed by the local community.

Finally it goes without saying that greener cities make more pleasant places to live in and can add to the value of your property investment.

* For more information see my recent post here about France's 'organic revolution' and my article in 'French Property News' issue 314, April 2017, pp 50-52.
And also Alternatives Economiques No. 367, Aptril 2017, pp 58-60 by Bénédice Weiss, who offers further sources.

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