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.
Scheduled to open in November, the shelter has drawn controversy for its location.
As Americans wrestle with the fallout from an act of politically targeted arson, Parisians awoke this morning to their own firebombing controversy: At some point last night, an as-yet-unopened homeless shelter in the city’s tony 16th arrondissement was set alight. As Citylab reported in March, the new building has been controversial since it was proposed: Located on a sliver of parkland in one of Paris’ wealthiest areas, the shelter attracted the anger of local residents who felt that it could put them at risk of crime and possibly hurt the value of their properties. Passionate resistance to the shelter—which involved public denunciations of Paris’ Mayor Hidalgo as a “slut” at a rowdy public meeting and a petition against the plan that gained 50,000 signatures—has not dissipated as the shelter prepares to open in November.
Now it seems like that anger has spilled over into action. Police were called this morning after workers at the site found that its wooden walls had been charred. Two discarded bottles of gasoline suggest that the unknown arsonist intended to inflict far more damage.
The city, meanwhile, insists that the incident will not change plans to open the small shelter, which will have 200 temporary accommodation places. It would be the arrondissement’s only shelter.