French lower house votes to toughen penalties on illegal squatting in homes

FILE PHOTO: General view of the National Assembly in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) - France's lower house of parliament on Friday voted to toughen penalties on squatting in a move welcome by homeowner associations and criticised by the left.

With 40 votes in favour and 13 against, lawmakers approved a draft bill put forward by lawmakers of President Emmanuel Macron's ruling coalition. The bill was passed with help of lawmakers from the far-right National Front party

The new law triples the penalties for squatters to three years in prison and fines of up to 45,000 euros ($47,400).

The crime of illegal occupation of other people's homes also covers secondary homes and extends accelerated eviction procedures - which do not require the involvement of a judge - to vacant houses.

The bill now needs to be approved by the Senate, where the conservative opposition has a majority.

Lawmaker Guillaume Kasbarian of Macron's ruling Renaissance party said squatting was "a danger to our democracy as the spectacle of impunity and the feeling of injustice hollow out our republican pact".

The bill, which responds to long-held complaints by landlord organisations, "will create more homelessness", said lawmaker Danielle Simonnet of the far-left La France insoumise (LFI) party.

Government spokesperson Olivier Veran told Reuters the bill sought to end situations whereby owners of modest homes were deprived of rental income for years as they were unable to evict illegal occupants from their property.

($1 = 0.9489 euros)

(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Geert De Clercq Editing by Dominique Vidalon and Mark Potter)