New homeless center in luxury Paris district hit by apparent arson attack

General view of the damage after an overnight fire to wooden modules that are under construction and intended to house the homeless in the sixteenth arrondissement of Paris, on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne, France, October 17, 2016. © Jacky Naegelen
A center for homeless people due to open in one of the richest districts of Paris in late October has been hit by an apparent arson attack, authorities said. The center faced strong objections from locals who feared that it would host asylum seekers.

The incident took place near the Bois de Boulogne forest in 16th district of Paris on Monday morning, the authorities confirmed.

“Shame on those who have been engaged in this outrageous act,” said Ian Brossat, the official in charge of housing at City Hall and an assistant of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, in a Twitter message.

According to reports on French media, the fire was started on purpose. The glass from a bottle was found at the scene of the incident which prompted people to suggest that the blaze was started by a homemade device.

Authorities have opened an investigation into the case.

Hidalgo condemned the incident on Twitter: “These cowardly acts do not diminish my determination …to help the homeless,” she wrote.

BFMTV cited Hidalgo as saying that the damage is minor and the facade of the building was damaged.

The center is expected to host some 200 people, according to French media. Its construction was met with opposition from local people. According to resident Françoise Gaujour, the move will make “apartment prices fall.”

“My residential apartment, which is located in this area, has already lost 15 percent of its initial value since these construction plans were announced. This apartment is my only ‘fortune’... It’s my savings,” she told the Local.

She added that in France “we know that temporary often means permanent.”

When the rumors in March claimed that it would be a center for asylum seekers, some 50,000 signed a petition in a bid to block its construction. The residents said they feared the repetition of the Calais “Jungle” camp, currently home to some 6,000-9,000 refugees.

Paris 16th district is considered to be the second richest area in the French capital and the third richest across the whole of France. Since the 19th century, it has been a place of residence for French high society. Now is still considered one of the most affluent and prestigious residential area.

The 16th district has such famous attractions as L’Arc de Triomphe, Place de l'Étoile, the Louis Vuitton museum and a campus of New York University.