Feargus O'Sullivan is a contributing writer to CityLab, covering Europe. His writing focuses on housing, gentrification and social change, infrastructure, urban policy, and national cultures. He has previously contributed to The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times, and Next City, among other publications.
Want something cheap(er)? Then go east.
Many of us have dreamed of moving to an apartment in some charming, photogenic Parisian quartier. Now there’s a map that allows you to put an exact price on the fantasy. Created by French Magazine Streetpress together with website Rentswatch, the map (available in zoomable format here) shows the average rent for an apartment within 500 meters of each city Metro station. If the number of apartments nearby is especially low, that radius is extended to one or two kilometers. Rather than providing a shock to the system, the map more or less confirms what anyone familiar with Paris might expect. Eiffel Tower views come at a premium, prices drop off to the east, and anyone who wants a bargain will have to hunt beyond the Boulevard Périphérique inner beltway.
Before we zoom in, a word on those prices. If they seem ever so slightly on the high side, that’s because they probably are. The figures, which cover new rental contracts offered over the past 6 months, only cover apartments of 35 square meters (377 square feet) or more. In Paris, many people live in smaller apartments than this, in garrets where mezzanine beds have been squeezed in overlooking the living room or in tiny chambres de bonne, originally designed to house the maids of wealthier apartments in the same building. As the list also excludes rent for public housing, which comes cheaper, it may be skewed slightly upwards.
There’s no prize for guessing where to find the most expensive corner of the map. It’s directly beneath the Eiffel Tower, by Bir Hakeim metro, where the average apartment will set you back €2150 ($2411). All of Paris’ other most expensive areas lie in the area due north of hear, a district whose high land values haven’t deterred the city from creating new public housing there for people on low incomes.
To find something cheaper—but still within the area of Paris Proper, represented by the yellow-shaded area on the map—you’ll need to head way over to the city’s east. You’ll get the best deal in the affordable but attractive streets that form a spider’s web around the Danube Metro station. For an outsider, however, what’s more striking is not the huge peaks and dips in price, it’s the relative uniformity across the city. Average prices typically seem to be only a few hundred euros cheaper in Paris’s east than its west. There could admittedly be some masking factors at work here. The higher cost of land in the west might mean a relatively smaller average apartment size, for example.
The moderate variance still underlines something fundamental about Paris. Nowadays a decent apartment within the city proper is increasingly becoming a luxury for many. If you want to see the full range of wealth and poverty that the metropolis contains, you really need to look at the wider metro area of 12 million residents, rather than the historic core covered by the Metro network, which barely strays beyond narrow city limits that contain just 2.2 million inhabitants. Less wealthy people renting privately who are seeking a better deal look not within the narrow boundaries of Paris Proper but further out in the ares still referred to as the suburbs, despite their huge size and often high density.
You can see this borne out when you look at the few tentacles of the metro that stretch beyond the city’s limits. These areas may be just a few hundred yards past the beltway, but in the north and east, the drop in price is marked. The average rent at the cheapest metro stop —northeast La Courneuve 8 Mai 1945, in northeast Paris—is just €480 ($538), making it less than a quarter of the price of apartments around Paris’s most expensive metro station. With each stop away from the city limit, the average rent drops.
This isn’t the case in the city’s west, however. Here Paris Proper blends into wealthy suburbs flanking the Seine’s steeper western banks, sandwiched between the city and Versailles, now a genteel commuter town. Looking at the detail below bears this out—due west of the Place de l’Étoile, there’s no great difference in price on either side of the city limit. The “suburb” in question here is the Neuilly neighborhood, long associated with the city’s economic and political elite.
In 10 or 15 years’ time, an updated rent map should look very different indeed. This isn’t because prices will necessarily drop (though Paris hopes to build at least 7,000 new public housing units a year between now and 2020), but because the metro map itself will look different. Currently, Paris Proper and the suburbs are served by mainly different transit networks. Residents in the former normally travel by metro, while suburbanites use the region-wide RER train network. The Grand Paris Express project, on which work has already begun, will see three entirely new metro lines constructed in the the suburbs; two express lines currently in existence also greatly expanded out into the wider metro area. Beyond creating more seamless transit, the new lines will lessen the radical sense of separation between Paris’s core and its periphery. As the Paris metro system expands to serve the whole of the metropolis (albeit not comprehensively), we can expect to see a lot more light and shade present in the range of city rents at each stop.