France has a long history of providing subsidized social housing options to low-income citizens. Beginning in the late-19th century, the first public housing initiatives were, in fact, privately funded by charitable donations. The early to mid-20th century saw a significant expansion of social housing and a shift toward state control of the housing market. The lack of construction during two World Wars, combined with a widespread rural exodus, led to skyrocketing rents that left many French families without affordable options. The social housing system came to be known as the HLM, “habitations à loyer modéré,” which translates to “moderate rent habitations.” HLM continued to grow as immigrants from former French colonies arrived in the City of Lights in the 1950s.
As the Parisian population continues to rise, architects play a key role in creating solutions to finding a home in a rapidly appreciating housing market. Built to accommodate many families for the lowest prices possible, the social housing projects listed below help countless low-income Parisians and newcomers afford life in the French capital. Many incorporate design trends common in many Parisian apartment complexes, including recessed balconies, floor-to-ceiling windows, and patterned façades. While design isn’t the entire solution to the city’s economic challenges — the same holds true in any major urban area — architects remain aware of the political function they serve and the families they support.
In Paris’ beautiful Latin quarter, this social housing project welcomes residents with playfully bright orange windows and hallways. The building includes a pedestrian walkway and recreational area for children.
Clad in alternating silver and timber panels, this apartment building stands out next to its more traditional neighbors. Its well-lit apartments include access to covered balconies, where residents can relax and observe Parisian street life from above.
Defined by its minimalist, muted gray façade, this apartment building feels distinctly modern. Its architects leave as much outdoor space as possible, with a few covered balconies and a rooftop walkway.
Located in the 18th arrondissement, this contemporary apartment complex accommodates eight households. The exterior facing the street features metal cladding, while the opposite side is painted a clean white.
In Paris’ northern 19th arrondissement, this one-story building offers apartments in a range of sizes. Open-air spaces, including terraces and large rooftop lounge areas make small apartments feel larger.
This bright new building includes 30 studio apartments for young professionals. Covered in translucent white glass, the building lets in plenty of sunlight.
This multi-unit housing complex is home to 14 families. The building’s gold-colored façade is unique among typical Haussman-style Parisian residences.