“Are you from Archamps?” “We just bought, yes” “Was it expensive?” “In the region, everything is expensive…”
This Thursday, February 3, “Special Envoy” will knock on the door of the inhabitants of this commune of Haute-Savoie, nestled near Switzerland, where, in 2019, the median income was 46,156 euros per year, i.e. the highest per capita of all of France. In the sector, the number of opulent houses per square meter, clinging to the mountain, does not fail to challenge journalist Arnaud Muller, author of the report broadcast this Thursday from 9:10 p.m. on France 2.
A salary almost four times higher
The new resident he has just met, settled here for 6 months with his wife, is proud to show him around his new home, an old renovated barn, acquired for 680,000 euros. For him, who owns two restaurants in Switzerland, the geographical location of Archamps is perfect: he only has a 10-minute drive to reach one of his establishments, crowned with a Michelin star. In the brigade, cooks from France but also Italians. One of them estimates that he earns in Switzerland almost four times more than he would earn in Italy in a similar position…
“It’s a dormitory town, there are only border workers”
The attraction for the villages close to the border caused the prices to explode. In Archamps, real estate is trading for around 7,000 euros per square meter. According to this retiree who has lived in the center for 70 years, the buildings have sprouted like mushrooms: “I saw Archamps with 500 inhabitants, now there are more than 3,000,” she says. “People settle because of the proximity to Geneva, but it’s a dormitory town, there are only cross-border workers”. Only two shops are still open: a pharmacy and a bakery.
700 euros per month for an 18 m² studio
“Everyone thinks it’s Neuilly-sur-Seine, but it’s Archamps,” underlines Melody, the receptionist at the Ibis hotel, referring to a standard of living that poses a problem for her. His food budget – “The prices in the supermarkets are higher than in other regions of France” – but also his housing budget suffer: “Two years ago, I lived in an 18 m² studio without a parking space , with nothing, I was paying 700 euros a month,” she continues. With her salary of 1300 euros net, she even had to live for five months where she works, in a room, before finding a roof.
Added to this strong real estate pressure is the phenomenon of “false residents”. Not far from the town hall, the town planning assistant explains that these are people who live permanently in accommodation declared as second homes. They are the source of a considerable shortfall for the municipalities, estimated at 40 million euros per year in the French Geneva basin. “They don’t pay for the roads, the schools” because “they are tax residents in Switzerland” she underlines. While the hunt for fraudsters is open, and the prices have never been so exorbitant, the heirs of the ”historic” families from the village believe they have little choice. Either sell everything and leave, or stay and resist.
”Tok Tok at the top of wealth”, a report broadcast this Thursday, February 3 in ”Special Envoy”, from 9:10 p.m., on France 2.