In view of the possible approach of cholera, and the sanitary precautions that even the most neglectful of authorities are constrained to take, it is of some interest to us, says the Building News, to know how the poor are housed in the city of Paris, which contains, more than any city in the world, the opposite poles of luxurious magnificence and of sordid, bestial poverty. The statistics of the Parisian working classes in the way of lodgings are not of an encouraging nature, and reflect great discredit on the powers that be, who can be stern enough in the case of any political question, but are blind to the spectacle of fellow creatures living the life of beasts under their very eyes. In 1880, the Prefect of Police gave licenses to 21,219 arrivals in the city of French origin, and to 7,344 foreigners. In the succeeding year, the former had increased to 22,061, while the latter had somewhat diminished, being only 5,493. There was a census taken in 1881, from which it appeared that Paris contained 677,253 operatives and 255,604 employes and clerks, while out of every 1,000 inhabitants, 322 only were born in the city, and 565 came from the departments or the French colonies.
The foreign element in the working classes has increased very rapidly, numbering 119,349 in 1876, to which by 1881 there was an addition of 44,689. To every 1,000 inhabitants, Paris now numbers 75 foreigners, though in 1876 the proportion was only 60. It may not be amiss to state that the annual increase of the Paris population is at the rate of 56,043 persons, and that in the five years 1876-81, the city received 280,217 additional mouths. The total population of the capital is 2,239,928, of whom 1,113,326 are males.
Returning to the poorer classes, we find that in 1872 they were estimated at 100,000; but that in 1873 they had risen to 113,733, and in 1880 to 123,735. It is unfortunate to be obliged to say that the majority of these people are housed worse in Paris than in almost any other great city in the world. There are two classes of lodgings for the poor--the one where the workman rents one or more rooms for his family, and, perhaps, owns a little furniture; the other, a single room tenanted for the night only by the unmarried man who pays for his bed in the morning and gets his meals anywhere that he can. Readers will remember how, under the auspices of M. Haussmann, western Paris was almost pulled down and transformed into a series of palatial boulevards and avenues. While the work lasted the Paris workman was well pleased; but he did not like it quite so much when the demon of restoration and renovation invaded his own quarters, such as the Butte des Moulins, and all that densely populated district through which the splendid Avenue de l'Opera now runs.
The effect of all this was to drive the workman into the already crowded quarters at the barriers, such as La Gare, St. Lambert, Javel, and Charonne, where, according to the last statistics of the Annuaire, the increase was at the rate of 415 per 1,000. Of course the ill health that always pervaded these quarters increased also; and, from the reports of Dr. Brouardel and M. Muller, the number of deaths from typhoid and diphtheria were doubled in ten years. Dr. Du Mesnil, in making his returns for 1881 of convalescents from typhoid, remarked that the most unsanitary arrondissements were the 4th, 11th, 15th, 18th, and 19th--precisely those to which the principal migrations of laborers had taken place. The 18th arrondissement, which in 1876 had only 601 lodging houses with 8,933 lodgers, had, in 1882, over 850, with 20,816 inmates. In the 19th arrondissement there were 517 houses in 1876, with 9,074 lodgers, and 752 in 1882, with 17,662 inhabitants.
It is not only the crowded condition of the poor quarters that is such a standing menace to the health of the city, but also the shocking state of the rooms, which the unhappy lodgers are obliged to put up with. The owners of the property are, as happens in other places besides Paris, unscrupulous and grasping to the last degree, and have not only divided and subdivided the accommodation wherever possible, but have even raised the rental in nearly all cases. Whole families are crowded into a small apartment, icy cold in winter, an oven in summer, the only air and daylight which reaches the interior coming from a window which looks on to a dirty staircase or a still fouler court reeking with sewage. There are at the present time in Paris 3,000 lodgings which have neither stove nor chimney; over 5,000 lighted only by a skylight; while in 4,282 rooms there are four children in each below 14 years of age; 7,199 with three children; and 1,049 with four beds in each. The Parisian population has augmented only 15 per cent. in seven years; but the district of poor lodging houses has increased by twenty per cent., and the number of lodgings by about 80 per cent.
It is true that a law was passed in 1850 to provide for the sanitary supervision of this class of property; but in Paris the law is a dead letter, and, although it is now active in the provinces and in places like Marseilles, Lyons, Bordeaux, and Nantes, it is applied, even there, in a jerky and intermittent manner.
Perhaps the worst of the abominable dogkennels called houses was the group known as the Cité des Kroumirs, in the 13th arrondissement, which, by a strange irony, was built on land belonging to the Department of Public Assistance, which was let out by that body to a rich tenant, who sublet it to these lodging-house owners. This veritable den of infection and misery has now been demolished; but there are plenty of others quite as bad. Notably, there is the Cite Jeanne d'Arc (a poor compliment to have named it after that sturdy heroine), an enormous barrack of five stories, which contains 1,200 lodgings and 2,486 lodgers. No wonder that it was decimated in 1879 by smallpox, which committed terrible ravages here. The Cité Dore is grimly known by the poor-law doctors as the "Cemetery Gateway." The Cite Gard, in the Rue de Meaux, is inhabited by 1,700 lodgers, although it is almost in ruins. The Cite Philippe is tenanted by 70 chiffonniers, and anybody who knows what are the contents of the chiffonnier's basket, or hotte, may easily guess at the effluvia of that particular group of houses. A large lodging-house in the Rue des Boulangers is tenanted by 210 Italians, who get their living as models or itinerant musicians.
Both house and tenants are declared to be unapproachable from the vermin.
It is some satisfaction to know that these houses have lately awakened the apathy of some of the public bodies, and that more than one scheme is being put forward with a view of erecting proper industrial dwellings. The Municipal Council is negotiating with the Credit Foncier for the erection of a certain number of cheap houses, which, for the space of twenty years, will be exempt from all taxes, such as octroi, highway, door and window tax, etc. There are also one or two semi-private companies, which are occupying themselves with the question, and it is to be hoped that the rumors of the pestilence in Egypt may hasten the much-needed reform.
There can be no doubt, says the Engineer, that the inventor who could supply in a really portable form a machine or apparatus that could give out two or three horse power for a day would reap an enormous fortune. Up to the present time, however, nothing of the kind has been placed in the market. Gas is laid on to most houses now, and gas engines are plenty enough, yet they do not meet the want which a storage battery may be made yet perhaps to supply.