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French countryside homes are losing architectural treasures to speculators

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One mayor is fighting back

Joinville, France
A view of Joinville, France
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It’s not every mayor that obsesses over the value of a set of 19th-century terra cotta tiles ($6,500) or an antique wooden door ($600), but Bertrand Ollivier, mayor of the French village of Joinville isn’t average. He can’t afford to be. The French countryside is now crawling with architectural speculators who will purchase homes merely to strip them of historic architectural detail, according to The New York Times.

With everything from floorboards and molding to chimneys and roofs removed for sale abroad, a home’s value plummets, precipitating a vicious cycle as nearby property values are depressed and the town becomes less enticing to its population.

But Ollivier and his small team of preservationists are fighting back with a handful of unique programs and obscure laws to help protect his village’s interior heritage. One law allows the mayor to halt the removal of architectural elements that would undermine a home’s structural integrity—such as a staircase or chimney. Another program created by Ollivier finds locals willing to help fix up old homes to make them more appealing to someone who’d rather live in it than make a quick buck by selling its elegant paneling. He also gets involved with home sales in the area to ensure that buildings aren’t sold to speculators.

“I am truly a Joinville native,” Ollivier told the Times. “I am very attached to everything having to do with our heritage here...one has an obligation to safeguard it. It’s really our first mission.”

Via: The New York Times