PUBLIC HOUSING SHORTAGE PRESSES NEW CALEDONIA

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By Patrick Antoine Decloitre

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (Oceania Flash, Dec. 16) – New Caledonia's political leaders and officials are concerned at the lack of public housing in the French Pacific territory which, they say, could lead to "grave social problems" within the next ten years.

The assessment came during a so-called "social forum" held this week in the capital Nouméa among political leaders and officials, in a bid to foresee the main future guidelines of New Caledonia's social policy.

"Within the next ten years, we will have to double or even triple the current number of available social housing units, in order to meet the demand. If we don't do this, the social consequences will be very serious," local official François Xavier Roussel told participants, saying all provinces of New Caledonia were concerned.

Similar conclusions are contained in a report launched this week during the seminar.

New Caledonia's President Marie-Noëlle Thémereau told participants she intended to improve her government's social housing, adding this was a matter of "social peace and justice urgency".

The latest report estimates that in the Greater Nouméa alone, around 20,000 people are waiting for accommodation.

At the current pace, some 500 units classified as social housing are being built each year in New Caledonia.

The report recommends this level to be boosted to one thousand per year, possibly 1,800 (including 1,200 for the greater Nouméa alone).

A local association formed to struggle for the "right to a decent housing" told local media it estimates between 9,000 and 11,000 people currently live in squats around New Caledonia, mostly in the suburbs of the capital Nouméa.

Another issue identified was also the rising pressure on available land and a constant rise in lot prices.

Association President Paul Divou also said they were asking that the "social and cultural environment" of the Pacific Islanders be taken into account in future social housing plans.

"So what we want is a piece of land and an adapted environment for us, this is the solution we are suggesting. Because allowances are one thing, but they will not solve the high cost of living problems".

December 16, 2004

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