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Tuesday 17 October 2017

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Dividing land: a nifty tool to make cities denser

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par Elsa Sidawy | 11.28.11


The young company Terra in Design is playing with the traditional concept of a real estate agency and offering land dividing solutions to proprietors in need of a little extra cash. With continually climbing land prices, a changing society, and an economic crisis, the approach is appealing.

The principle? “You own a house with a minimum of 400 m2 of land and you would allow a piece of that land (suitable for development) to be parceled off to accommodate a new house,” says Stephanie Le Beuze, founding partner. The advantage of this division is to create new plots in areas where land is scarce and valuable, mainly near urban centers. An initiative called “intelligent peri-urban redensification,” it’s a means for owners to profit from their property and for buyers to acquire land for less in dense suburban areas.  With 19 million houses in France, 90% built on plots of more than 400 m2, the market is huge.

Increase the value of a property as much as 20%
According to its builders, Terra in Design is responding to a logical evolution of society: families are more fragmented and land may become too cumbersome to maintain, especially for those living alone. The young company is not looking to arbitrarily divide the land into pieces. Owners willing to part with a portion of their property are initially accompanied by architects:  “the company proposes three different ways to divide the property, providing sketches detailing the proposed second home so that owners fully realize that it will not devalue the first.” Terra in Design can also handle the administrative part by completing the necessary formalities with the planning departments of the city and may finally facilitate sales through a real estate partner. The promise? Increase the value of a property as much as 20%. With a base rate of 1500 euros, landowners can write off the service in all cases. Today, the young start-up has four types of customers: those in financial need who wish to continue living at their present homes, those who wish to sell their land in two lots in order to realize a profit, owners interested in having a rental investment on their own land or seniors overwhelmed by the care of their large homes and who want to build a smaller and more accessible semi-detached or terraced house.


The culmination of a research project
The realization of Terra in Design in December 2010 was actually based on the explorations carried out during the research project Public Bimby (Build in My Backyard), funded by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) and led by two of the founders of Terra in Design. The idea? “Give local officials the tools to promote a new mode of housing by relaxing planning regulations to encourage land division and the release of developable land.” Up until today, the division of land has been complicated by a host of restrictions in France. For instance, the minimum parcel rule was imposed by communities to prevent owners from dividing plots under a particular size. But in recent months, thanks to the reform of the Town Planning Code, the regulations are softening. To the chagrin of heritage protection associations, who view these measures as a threat to protected sites.

Photos credits: Terra in Design

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Translated by Genny Cortinovis

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