. How does the Livret A fund social housing?
A significant part of the Livret A is entrusted, along with other savings products (sustainable and solidarity development booklet, popular savings booklet), to the Caisse des dépôts et consignations (CDC).
The latter is required by law to dedicate these resources as a priority to loans financing social housing and urban policy, via its subsidiary Banque des Territoires.
These loans are granted for very long periods, which can go up to 80 years.
In total, nearly 80% of the debt of social landlords is held by the CDC.
At the end of 2021, 170.7 billion euros were allocated by the CDC to the financing of social housing and urban policy, including 11.8 billion released during the year.
This sum made it possible to build 85,300 social housing units in 2021, and to rehabilitate 81,600.
. What happens if the rate increases?
“The impact of the increase in the Livret A is not negligible”, we slip in the entourage of the Minister Delegate for Housing, Olivier Klein.
The bulk of the loans contracted by social landlords are indeed at variable rates, that is to say that the interest they must repay increases or decreases according to the rate of the Livret A.
“However, we have safeguards”, assures one to the ministry. “The French model of financing social housing through the Livret A will protect (social landlords, editor’s note) from a direct impact of the rise in rates, since loans from the Banque des Territoires will remain attractive.”
“In the very short term, the impact will be limited; in the longer term, it depends on how long this increase will last”, assures Clément Lecuivre, managing director of CDC Habitat, a social landlord subsidiary of the CDC.
Manuel Domergue, director of studies at the Abbé Pierre Foundation, sees a risk that is all the greater since social landlords have borrowed a lot in recent years.
“When the rate was low, it allowed social landlords to get into debt at low cost, so it was something quite interesting for years, and there, the rise in rates has quite costly effects for landlords social, and this is surely only the beginning”, adds Mr. Domergue.
. How are social landlords adapting?
They will inevitably have to make trade-offs.
“If the rate continues to increase, it will limit the new investment capacity of landlords,” warns Marianne Louis, director general of the Social Union for Housing (USH), which represents social landlords.
“Less investment capacity means fewer buildings, fewer renovations… that’s kind of the point,” she says.
With the obligations to renovate the thermal colanders under penalty of no longer being able to rent them, it is rather on the construction that the savings will be made, she warns.
So many additional pitfalls for the approximately 2.3 million people waiting for social housing.
With a passage from 1% to 2%, “we have 1.5 billion (of charges per year, editor’s note) more. And there, it is, roughly, 70,000 rehabilitations lost”, calculates for his part Didier Poussou, Managing Director of the Federation of Social Enterprises for Housing, private social landlords.
. What can governments do?
They are faced with a dilemma. In times of inflation, increasing the rate of the livret A too little, popular with small savers, would risk diverting them, and therefore drying up the manna that finances social housing.
But increasing it increases the operating costs of social landlords.
To avoid having to choose, the State would have to put its hand in its pocket.
“The solution is to assume that having an HLM park that meets everything that is asked of it, (…) it costs public money”, stings Manuel Domergue, recalling the savings imposed on social landlords during Emmanuel Macron’s first term.
“It’s like when you buy an apartment: if interest rates are high, you have to increase your contribution”, explains Marianne Louis. “So the free money part. Are we able, tomorrow, to increase the aid for stone? That’s the question.”