STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
The government of France says it plans to make housing a legal right. That would make housing just like education or healthcare, which is a right in France. The housing issue has dominated French news and was thrust into the middle of this year's French presidential campaign. Eleanor Beardsley sends us this report from Paris.
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: The residents of Paris were then invited to come out and spend the night with them. Scores of Parisians did and the campaign dominated TV news programs and newspaper front pages throughout the holidays. Pascal Oumakhlouf is one of the founders of the group.
PASCAL OUMAKHLOUF: (Through translator) It's not possible that in 2006 in France people die on the sidewalk. The French constitution says that everyone has the right to a decent existence. We should either respect this or take it out of the constitution and end our French arrogance about being a country of human rights.
BEARDSLEY: This week Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin took up that challenge, saying the government would present a bill to parliament in mid- January, putting the right to housing on a par with the right to free medical care and education.
DOMINIQUE DE VILLEPIN: (Through translator) When the law is passed, those in the most difficult situations, the homeless, poor workers and single women with children, will be guaranteed the right to housing as early as 2008.
BEARDSLEY: But Edouard Fillias, the presidential candidate for the free market alternative Libertarian Party says many housing problems could be alleviated by a change in laws and attitudes.
EDOUARD FILLIAS: (Through translator) Property owners are worried about being taking to the cleaners by bad tenants. This is a country where all the laws protect renters. If we protected property owners a little better, there would be far fewer people living in bad conditions.
BEARDSLEY: For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.
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