First village in France the place life is sweet… the fed up of Guéthary | EUROtoday

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” VSlooked bourgeois and a little empty, but it's very beautiful. » On the terrace of a café, Céline and Delphine admire the colorful houses of Guéthary and its breathtaking view of the Atlantic Ocean, filled with surfers. These two Paloises passing through the Basque coast don't know it, but they are in the heart of the first village where life is “good in France”. For the third year in a row, the former fishing port took the lead – in the category of municipalities with 500 to 2000 inhabitants – in the ranking drawn up by the association of Towns and Villages where life is good.

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A rating established based mostly on 187 standards, most of which information is obtained from INSEE. “Quality of life, transport, safety… we weight the results according to a survey carried out among a panel of 1,000 French people who prioritize eleven categories. This is a quantitative and perfectly objective ranking,” assures its president, Thierry Saussez, who’s satisfied: “All cities are proud to be thought of essentially the most nice in France. ” Really ?

Real estate, the number 1 pain point

In the small Basque seaside resort, acclaimed among other things for the quality of its education and its transport – due to its proximity to Biarritz and Bayonne – this first place above all makes one cringe. Especially since the village owes it in particular to a criterion that it could do without: its real estate attractiveness. “I'm not going to say that I'm not happy,” thinks Mayor Marie-Pierre Burre-Cassou, “but I would prefer to be at the top of a ranking where we can find accommodation. » For her, as for most of the village's elected officials, even those in the opposition, this classification would attract envy and could aggravate the real estate tension which is already rife there.

In addition to holding the record for the number of second homes on the Basque coast (there are almost 50%), Guéthary has experienced exorbitant purchase prices for several years. Here, the square meter can reach 20,000 euros on the seafront. At the start of 2024, bare land sold for 2,000 euros per m2. Unheard of and “a shame!” » for Benoit Lamerain, municipal councilor who asks: “Who can afford that today? Certainly not our residents, even middle or senior managers. We have become an amusement park for the rich! » he says. Alda, an association which works in particular in favor of the right to housing, puts forward frightening figures: “75% of the population who lives and works in the Basque Country could access social housing. In fact, three quarters of locals cannot afford housing exceeding 4,500 euros per m2 », Indicates its co-president, Ainize Butron.

An advantage for businesses

However, in recent years, the number of inhabitants of Guéthary has increased slightly. With the arrival of a more urban and affluent population, falling under the spell of this little corner of paradise. “We had a significant migratory flow after Covid. People understood that they could live far from Paris while maintaining a professional activity by teleworking,” underlines Marie-Pierre Burre-Cassou. Despite everything, the town has probably lost its soul. “Who really lives here all year round? » asks Cédric Curutchet, town planning assistant for whom “the associations have fewer and fewer hands” and the quality of life should be further “improved”.

Here, local shops have given way to more touristy shops. Suzon, a 30-year-old resident, notes this. “Today, we have three real estate agencies, no butcher and no bakery in the heart of the town. A Spar was replaced by a clothing store open three months of the year. » As Benoit Lamerain summarizes, Gétariar since a young age, “from the end of the summer, we gradually slide towards a sort of torpor”. It is therefore not surprising that the local traders, on the contrary, take a positive view of the spotlight offered by this first place. “It’s good to have the spotlight on us,” enthuses Caroline, from the La Maison du fronton grocery store. It could perhaps bring in more people, especially in winter, even if, for that, all the stores would have to play the game and open during the off-season…”.

One desire: to get out of the ranking

If in winter, Guétary takes on the appearance of a ghost village, in summer, it's quite the opposite: it is “asphyxiated”, says Benoit Lamerain. Vacationers are available droves to take pleasure in this idyllic however… tiny setting. The village – the smallest on the coast – stretches over barely 1 km2. Result: for 2 years, in July and August, the city corridor has restricted entry to the middle to residents solely. “We had constant traffic jams, people parking wildly on the sidewalks… We had to invest. But it is a cost for our town hall to face such a massive seasonal flow,” provides Cédric Curutchet.

Would this listing due to this fact be a poisoned chalice? “It’s the price of success,” admits Thierry Saussez, of the Villes et villages the place life is sweet affiliation. It can value, however above all these are issues linked to native politics,” he thinks. Still, the city corridor doesn’t intend to use the label to which it could declare. And the councilor, Marie-Pierre Burre-Cassou, even plans to go additional. “I would like to write to them to ask them to get out of this ranking. » Because, for her, as for her inhabitants, “to live happily, let us live hidden”.