Economy Social link, ecology… Why participatory housing is on the...

Social link, ecology… Why participatory housing is on the rise


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Numerous participatory housing projects have emerged in France in recent years. – IStock / City Presse

If the acquisition of real estate remains the number one dream of the French, more and more citizens are also asserting their desire to live in a more ecological way and to forge more social ties. The opposite of neighborhoods and buildings where no one knows each other, it is therefore a question of investing in the design and management of tailor-made housing giving pride of place to collective spaces. This is called participatory habitat.

Late legislation

Very popular with some of our European neighbors, this alternative mode of housing represents 15% of the Norwegian housing stock and 5% of the Swiss stock. But it is Tübingen, in Germany, which holds the absolute record, since more than 80% of new homes are built there in participatory housing. Conversely, France took the bandwagon late and fumbled for a long time on the subject, for lack of an adequate legal framework.

It is finally the Alur law of March 24, 2014 that created the framework for the development of this movement. Since then, participatory housing has been defined as “a citizen approach that allows people to join together in order to participate in the definition and design of their homes and spaces intended for common use, to build or acquire one or more buildings intended for their habitation and, where applicable, to ensure the subsequent management of the buildings constructed or acquired ”.

The acclaimed collective

Far from being fanciful, this formula, increasingly supported by local authorities, is based on a desire to live differently, in community and in a spirit of sustainable development. Most often, these projects rely on renewable heat sources, responsible materials or even good waste management. In this context, green spaces do not serve only to look pretty, but are real places of exchange, cooperation and solidarity thanks to the design of common gardens, terraces and vegetable gardens.

Depending on the wishes of the inhabitants, public facilities can also be more or less numerous. In Montpellier, for example, in the Mas Cobado project, which came out of the ground in 2016, the accommodation has guest rooms which are common areas that can be privatized during visits. As for the some eighty residents of the two Brutopia buildings, erected in 2013 in Brussels, they benefit not only from a common garden and vegetable patch, but also from cars to share, a laundry room and a multipurpose room. .

Specific legal arrangements

Participatory housing involves all cohabitants in decision-making related to the management of the residence or building. A bit like a condominium, except that there is no trustee. But their commitment goes much further, since they must build their project through a specific legal entity defined by law.

The future occupants can thus form a “residents’ cooperative”, in which they hold shares. They are then collectively owners of the cooperative but are individually tenants. Another option is to set up a “self-promotion company”. This time, the partners own their home individually and can manage the building on the same model as a conventional condominium. Despite the differences, the philosophy remains the same: to create a living space that meets common objectives determined upstream of the project, in environmental, social and economic terms.

Where can I find out more?

Participatory housing is developing almost everywhere in France. If you want to get started, you can get information from your city or region, but also from specialized associations:

  • Participatory Habitat France: it coordinates the national movement and campaigns for the development of this alternative form of housing. On its site, you will find a map of the groups of projects in progress or completed, as well as the contacts of local structures that can help you.
  • Habicoop: it is the French Federation of residents’ cooperatives. It offers its own interactive map and identifies regional guides to set up a project.



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