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N 98-403 DC du 29 juillet 1998, Loi d'orientation relative la lutte contre les exclusions

Facts : On July 9, 1998, French deputies challenged before the Constitutional Council (Conseil Constitutionnel) the proposed Law relating to the remedies against exclusion in France (the  Loi d'orientation relative la lutte contre les exclusions ). They claimed that articles 51, 52, 107, 119 and 152 of the Law were unconstitutional. The Law was drafted and proposed to remedy the lack of available housing in France. Article 51 provided for a special taxation on unoccupied housing when the landlord did not even seek to rent it. Article 52 provided for a special procedure whereby the State could requisition unoccupied buildings and provide them to homeless people in exchange for compensation to the landlord.

Holding: articles 51, 52 of the proposed Law were constitutional.

Reasoning: the French constitution provides that "the French state guarantees to any citizen and his family the necessary conditions to his development (...), protects his health, his material security and his rest and leisure. Any individual who is unable to work because of his age, his mental or physical condition, or his financial situation has the right to receive a financial aid from the collectivity". The Constitution also guarantees the principle of human dignity against any degradation. As a result, the right to obtain a decent housing is a constitutional principle available to any French citizen. Article 51 which imposed a special tax on unoccupied housing contributed to give everybody this constitutional right to housing, even if it imposed an unequal taxation on some landlord.   Under article 52 local governmental authorities could oblige landlords of unoccupied buildings to give them the right to use the buildings up to 12 years. During all those years the State could provide the buildings to homeless people, do construction and fixation to the buildings necessary for a decent housing, with a minimal compensation to landlords. The deputies who challenged the proposed Law claimed this violated the right to property and equality. The Council did not find any violation because it stated that the Law provided for procedural safeguards, that a compensation to the landlord would be set by a judge and that the aim pursued in implementing the procedure (access to housing to homeless people) overweighed other considerations and interests.



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