We had to bring you this story about the sale of a home in the Northern Basque Country which we found extraordinary for two reasons: for how unusual it is, and for how exceptional it is for someone to decide to “lose” so that the community she lives in could “win.”

Amélie is a Basque lady who lives in Ahetze, a beautiful town that’s popular with tourists in Labourd, between Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Bayonne.  Four years ago, she received a letter from a real estate agent who explained how much she could earn if she sold her property.  The realtor’s goal was to use the land to build houses, undoubtedly ones that would be quite expensive, and out of the reach of the young people who live in the area.

Thinking about that angered her, greatly, and that led her to decide to do exactly the opposite: to ensure her property was set aside for social housing for the area’s residents.  She got in touch with the city, who put her in touch with Habitat Sud Atlantique (HSA).

The agreement they reached has meant that her property was sold for a quarter of its market value.  Yes, a quarter: for every €100 she could have made, she’s only receiving €25.

When the local newspaper Sud Ouest asked her why, she explained:

«Cuando nos hacemos mayores, no comemos foie gras ni caviar todos los días. Vivimos una vida sencilla»
«Vemos demasiados escándalos, jóvenes que no pueden acceder a la propiedad. Es un drama terrible el que se está desarrollando. No hago política, pero estamos perdiendo el alma en el País Vasco»

“When we get older, we don’t eat foie gras or caviar every day.  We live a simple life.”
“We see too many scandals, so many young people who can’t afford a property.  It’s a terrible drama that’s happening.  I’m not in politics, but we’re losing the soul of the Basque Country.”

This situation is so extraordinary, so unique, that the city of Ahetze and the HSA were afraid that Amélie was losing her mind.  They even made doubly sure she was fully informed and that this was indeed her will.  But the 80-year-old was quite clear about it, and humorously explained that she’d never followed the crowd.

A Transfer for Social Housing

The agreement transfers the ownership of her property in exchange for an annual payment and a pension, and allows the HSA to tear down the house to construct a building made up of two houses: one for three adults with disabilities, and five for social housing.

The house will carry the name Amélie chose: “Oroitzen” (I remember), in memory of her parents, both farmers.  With an area of 725 m² (7800 sqft), it will also house a medical center with for consultation rooms, 20 parking spaces, and a shared garden for the residents.

It’s harder and harder for young Basque people to get onto the property ladder (or even rent).  What’s more, in the areas that are popular with tourists, tourist apartments and second homes complicate the issue even further.  That’s what Amélie saw, and what she meant when she said “We’re losing the soul of the Basque Country.”

She decided to skip complaining and to do something about it, something extraordinary.  It’s obvious that this serious issue will only be solved, or improved, with clear public policy and a social conscience that prevents that path we’re going down, one which kicks out our own people from their cities, towns, and villages, from becoming a dead end.

There is no doubt that this extraordinary Basque lady knows what she wants for her country.

Sud Ouest – 30/1/2024 – France

« On perd notre âme au Pays basque » : à 81 ans, elle cède sa maison quatre fois en dessous du prix du marché pour du logement social

À Ahetze, une octogénaire détachée de l’argent et sensible aux difficultés des jeunes à se loger, a conclu avec le bailleur social HSA un viager libre. Une rareté, qui aboutira à la construction de sept logements à prix modérés

(Follow) (Automatic translation)

Le Figaro – 1/2/2024 – France

Le geste fort d’une octogénaire qui vend à perte sa belle maison basque

Amélie a décidé de se séparer de sa belle maison située à Ahetze, dans le Pays basque. Pour une somme beaucoup moins élevée que celle à laquelle aurait pu prétendre. L’octogénaire est donc perdante financièrement mais elle est fière de son choix.

This section of Le Figaro does not allow for automatic translation, so you’ll have to copy and paste it yourself

Last Updated on Feb 12, 2024 by About Basque Country

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