PARIS-French Pres. Nicolas Sarkozy has called for office spaceto be converted into housing to address the shortage of residentialproperty in the Paris Ile-de-France region. He also wants to relaxbuilding restrictions to increase housing density in areas of tightsupply.

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Sarkozy has asked Housing Minister Benoist Apparu "to look atmeasures concerning the 65 million square feet of office spacewhich will no longer be in use in the years ahead". Following hiselection in 2007, Sarkozy set out to boost home ownership to 70%but is still some way short of this target. "There are 48% of homeowners in Ile-de-France and 65% in the rest of the country. We needto take measures to increase supply," he said recently in aspeech.

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He has also unveiled a new interest-free loan to help first-timebuyers from 2011. The new measure replaces tax relief on recentmortgages and a means-tested, zero-interest loan introduced duringthe global financial crisis. The amount of the new loan - dubbedPTZ+ - will vary depending on region, size of household and theproperty's age and energy performance. The measure is expected tocost $3.4 billion a year.

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AllanSaunderson is a managing editor of Property InvestorEurope and a contributor to GlobeSt.com.

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