Économie et Statistique n° 381-382 - 2005Housing
Home ownership: more, but cautious, buyers
Following a break of nearly ten years, the proportion of owner-occupiers rose again from 1997 to 2001. During this period, nearly 600,000 households a year bought their usual residence, approximately one-third more than during the eight previous years. The vast majority of these recent homeowners were mortgage holders. No doubt the foremost of the factors behind this upturn is the sharp drop in interest rates in the second half of the 1990s. In addition to its direct effect on monthly repayment amounts, this drop has made the lengthening of mortgage periods more efficient. Another positive element is the renewal of public housing purchase programme assistance with the instantly successful introduction of the no-interest loan for an unlimited number of beneficiaries in late 1995. Nevertheless, despite the stabilisation of homeowner loan subsidy scales after a decade of steady erosion, subsidised home ownership is losing speed. Although the number of subsidised homeowners has risen slightly, their relative proportion has fallen considerably. Only six in ten recent homeowners are first-time buyers of their usual residence. The others already owned their previous housing or had been homeowners before. The predominant proportion of old housing and private houses among the dwellings purchased, already observed in the past, is increasingly marked. Private houses are particularly sought after by couples with children, whereas blocks of flats are only found to be in the majority among single and mostly relatively aged people who represent a small share of all recent homeowners.