In 1982, Mitterand decided that decentralization was a means of invigorating the French polity by making power flow from the local level to the central level. The loi Deferre of 1982 gave mayors greater control over communal matters, nearly making them despots that rival the prefects. In particular, mayors received extraordinary powers over land use: mayors became both urban planners and developers. Rather than employing these far-ranging powers to improve urban conditions, French mayors have been obsessed with increasing tax revenues. The latest example of this trend comes from zoning policies. Mayors have used their ability determine land use to restrict housing development and to promote construction for commerce and industry. The result is a scarcity of land for housing and high prices. According to Bernard de Korsak:
I do not believe that there is a shortage of real estate--it suffices to look at production [in order to see this]. One refers to the absence of land when it is a question of accommodating new lodgings, but not for installing enterprise or commerce.
The prevailing logic is that businesses produce revenue for communes, but people demand services. As a result, most development occurs in a predictable manner: lots of office space interspersed with a few apartments.
Poor translation of the quote is my own.