Residential Assets In France

Is Time Running Out For Paris Investment Opportunities?

June 27, 2023Real Estate
Written by Rory Hickman

Residential assets are a key concern for the French real estate market on the eve of updates to the Paris PLUb. The industry faces a great deal of uncertainty with new social housing regulations, increasingly stringent ESG requirements, and the impacts of changing demographics on the nascent managed residential class. Here you will discover a summary of the key takeaways from discussions on residential assets that took place at France GRI 2023 - download the full report here.
Ambitious new environmental regulations have been implemented for the French construction industry | (Photo: didesign | envato)

Tertiary and Housing

The definition of housing in Paris was very restrictive as a result of the leases governed by the 1989 Law. Under these circumstances it meant that from the moment a building was converted into housing, there was no going back.

The subject of long delays and difficulties in acquiring building permits was raised by all the players at the event, particularly in light of the ongoing discussions concerning the future Bioclimatic PLU (PLUb) of the Paris City Hall.

Three important measures that the future PLUb will entail and the impacts they will have on residential real estate were detailed:
  • A "pastillage" of around 900 Parisian buildings that will have to be converted into housing, incorporating a large share of social housing;
  • The obligation of mixed use: integrate between 10% and 30% of housing in office buildings of more than 5,000m² which will require major restructuring;
  • The obligation of social diversity: integrate 30% social housing for any building comprising more than 800m² of residential properties.
In the event that functional diversity is not possible in a building, financial or in-kind compensation could be considered.

Energy Performance

The subject of energy performance was also raised due to the fact that the majority of dwellings in the capital are old and nearly 55% have a DPE (Diagnostic de Performance Énergétique or Energy Performance Certificate in English) rating of just F or G. This leads to resale price discounts and the need to implement extensive energy renovations. 

Consequently, institutional investors today tend to reposition themselves on new housing or off-plans respecting the RE2020 - the ambitious new environmental regulations that have been implemented for the French construction industry - with a preference for the first ring and less on Haussmann’s Paris.

According to bankers, around 20% of their outstanding amount was for housing and they mainly financed very high-end properties in intramural Paris.

There is a risk that the effects of the Paris PLUb could cause economic problems and an inability to build any new housing | (Photo: wirestock | envato)

The PLUb

There was a sense of resignation at the level of the PLUb since it will pass with certainty in 2024. This is in line with the regulations in other cities in Europe. However, the players noted there is a risk that the effects of the PLUb could cause economic problems and an inability to build any new housing in the city due to fear of extremely low returns for real estate investors. 

A leading real estate lawyer shared that one possible solution to this issue would be a buildability bonus and that the subject would surely arise. Another speaker also indicated that this new Paris City Hall PLUb would freeze the renovation market and go against the grain of the energy renovation policy imposed by the State. 

This situation also risks accentuating the existing problem of administrative risks linked to the excessively long delays in the acquisition of building permits, which could ultimately deteriorate the attractiveness of the city of Paris, particularly among foreign investors.

Valuations experts indicate that repricing was all but guaranteed to take place, with a discount on the pastillage buildings and on the buildings of + 5000m² requiring restructuring and conversely, an increase in value for the buildings not concerned.

Managed Residential

The managed residential asset class has experienced remarkable performance in recent years, solidifying its position as an attractive opportunity for investors. 

In the previous year alone, the managed residential sector witnessed significant growth, with 1.3 billion euros being invested in this asset class. This figure represents approximately 24% of the total investments made in the housing market during that period. 

However, there have been few transactions completed recently due to the ongoing economic uncertainty, but players remain optimistic that the situation will at least begin to show signs of improvement by the end of 2023.

A key point made about managed residential assets is their ability to combine the benefits of residential properties with long-term commercial leases. This unique feature is particularly attractive to investors seeking stable income streams. 

By incorporating commercial elements into residential properties and securing long-term leases with commercial tenants, investors can experience the positive aspects of both asset classes. 

The changing demographics in France, along with the increasing number of national and foreign students, demonstrates another advantage of these assets. The demand for suitable accommodation options from both types of students has presented investment opportunities and spurred the development of purpose-built student housing and serviced apartments.

There is a desire to accelerate the development of managed real estate projects in France | (Photo: wirestock | envato)

Development Desires

There is a strong desire to accelerate the development of managed real estate projects. This is due to the fact that the notion of service has been introduced for several years in the residential sector and the tripartite model between the developer, the investor and the operator is an advantage. 

Within the range of managed residential assets, student residences have been registered as being more profitable than senior residences. This is primarily a result of the reduced need for on-site staff in student focused projects, as well as the lower skill requirements.

A few years ago, student residences were viewed as the "poor relation" of the real estate family in France and opportunistic funds exhibited no interest at all. As a result of this situation, the president of a major player in the student residence market explained how their organisation seized on this asset class and developed it by establishing services and putting users at the heart of the offer. 

There is also potential for the development of residences for young workers, aiming at the market of 25-40 year olds who are looking for flexible accommodation for a short period of time or even just a few days per week. 

Star Students

Much as in the case of student residences during the summer, both “hospitality” and “housing” options are necessary for these types of residence due to the large degree of flexibility offered to customers.

According to one real estate executive, housing will become a recruitment asset for companies in the near future. Indeed, his company is actively studying the possibility of forging partnerships with companies to give them the opportunity to offer accommodation in young worker residences to their new hires. 

The difficulty of finding student accommodation for short periods in many countries was also raised, although it was explained that this is not particularly the case in France thanks to the one-month notice in so-called “zone tendue” (tight zones). 

These areas are typically urban or metropolitan regions with a shortage of affordable housing options due to factors such as population growth, limited land availability, and high housing prices. 

The classification of a particular area as a "zone tendue" is determined by the French government and can vary over time as market conditions and housing needs change.

One speaker expressed their opinion that now is the right time to pursue co-living projects because there is a chance that it might be impossible once the Paris City Hall’s PLUb comes into force.

The residential real estate market finds itself on the brink of a new era ahead of the implementation of the PLUb | (Photo: wirestock | envato)

Tech Transitions

Another participant explained his company's use of technology and data to find interesting investment opportunities, bring them up to environmental standards, and manage them after many institutional investors moved out of pure residential as a result of management difficulties. The organisation's system allows them to have management costs up to three times lower than with traditional management methods.

The prospect of rehabilitating obsolete office buildings into managed residential was another possibility shared by an attendee as a means to deal with vacancy and to allow the revitalization of certain districts which have become distressed in light of recent events.


The French residential real estate market, especially in Paris, finds itself on the brink of a new era ahead of the implementation of the updated Bioclimatic PLU (PLUb). Institutional investors prefer environmentally compliant new housing or off-plan projects due to energy performance concerns in older dwellings. However, managed residential assets, like student residences, have experienced significant growth, appealing to investors seeking stable income streams. 

Despite some big challenges on the horizon, there is optimism for positive developments in the sector with the incorporation of technology and data in investment strategies to improve efficiency and reduce costs. To find out more about this ever-evolving situation be sure to register for Europe GRI 2023, taking place on September 12-13 in Paris. 

Europe GRI 2023