Paris - Two weeks after a spurt of rioting in a far-flung
Paris suburb, President Francois Hollande is injecting a new dose of funds to
help cure one of France's most persistent problem areas - the suburban housing
projects with their volatile mix of joblessness, high immigration, crime and
The government is counting on state-sponsored jobs and
improved lodging to help the millions of people, often immigrants who don't
speak French, living in pockets of poverty that ring major cities.
Hollande's cure, some €5bn of direct state investment
with the hope it will attract €15bn more, is a small response to a problem that
has dogged three presidents and, Hollande has said, has only long-term
solutions. But he is optimistic.
The plan was being presented to the Cabinet on Friday,
two days after Hollande visited Clichy-Sous-Bois, northeast of Paris, the town
that since 2005 has symbolised urban unrest.
Three weeks of fiery riots that started in
Clichy-Sous-Bois hopscotched around the housing projects of France.
The unrest was France's wakeup call to the urban misery
long hidden from view, in part because of poor transport to the nearby hub
Two days of riots two weeks ago, with dozens of cars set
afire in Trappes, a suburb southwest of Paris, was a new reminder of the
The unrest there was triggered by the arrest of a man who
allegedly attacked a police officer for ticketing his wife for covering her
face with an Islamic veil - banned in French streets.
But urban experts and residents said the veil issue
covered the deep concerns over unemployment, discrimination, poor integration
of many residents and despair over the future.
"Social misery is deep. All of that came to the
surface over a veil," said Trappes resident Armel Angoula, 38, a home
During his Wednesday visit to Clichy-Sous-Bois, Hollande
refused to comment on the unrest in Trappes and neighbouring cities, but he
acknowledged that suburban projects remain a tinderbox despite the injection of
tens of billions of euros since 2005.
"The slow-burning fuse is still lit but, while this
fuse burns slowly, we can stop it with projects that are long-term, very
long-term," he said.
In Clichy-Sous-Bois, population 30 000, the jobless rate
is over 20% - twice the national average - and soars to about 40% for those
But the presidential message was one of optimism. He
pointed to changes wrought in Clichy-Sous-Bois where urban renovation has been
underway since 2005 - but which just this year will get its first unemployment
Hollande's plan for urban renovation is spread over 1 300
priority neighbourhoods, chosen for their high levels of poverty, but zeroes in
on 230 of them.
He instigated a plan this month, called "Real Jobs",
in which companies that hire under-30s in impoverished areas, who have been
unemployed for at least a year, receive €5 000 from the state. The goal is to
recruit 10 000 people within three years.
France began injecting funds into its housing projects in
2004 under president Jacques Chirac a year before the riots, with a €12bn plan
over 10 years that grew to €40bn with private investments.
More than 91 000 buildings have been razed and about 81 000
new ones built.