“We live in a community in a participatory habitat”

Five years ago, Augustin, 35, lived in town and worked in the nautical field. Today, he is a peasant brewer and lives in the countryside in a house of almost 800 square meters in the south of the Cévennes, above Montpellier. With him, nine other people aged 0 to 60. A newborn has just seen the light of day, quite recently.

So, no, Augustin does not live in a giant intergenerational roommate but in what is called a participatory habitat. The difference ? They are all owners. Impossible to leave by snapping your fingers, depending on a career change. At the same time, they took almost eighteen months to find this exceptional place: a plot of almost 25 hectares in the middle of which stands an old and beautiful building where everyone has their room (about 30 square meters). The rest of the rooms (kitchen, bathrooms, etc.) are shared.

“Bikini” and “agricultural areas” commissions

The ten residents decide everything as a group (even the shopping list or even the installation of one of them as a couple!) thanks to a monthly plenary assembly with its fifteen thematic commissions which govern the life of the house (“ green spaces”, “agricultural spaces”, “governance”, “entertainment”, “bikini” for the swimming pool, etc.).

“Here, it’s not ‘everyone does what they want’, it’s much more engaging. So necessarily a little more complicated, explains Augustine. In this case, they must answer trivial questions such as “Who takes care of the sheep? », « who picks up the potatoes? », « which trees do we cut? », « who welcomes this or that group of artists for a residency in the house? », « who manages the distribution of information by the mailing list? », etc

A third of the inhabitants work on site

Because the building is not only a place of life, where we share the kitchen, the household appliances, the garden, the cars and the garage, but also a performance hall which regularly hosts the circus, the theater, the dance, a space suitable for festivals or meditation classes – among others. Between agricultural and cultural activities, a third of the residents work on site.

Having worked for years in the private sector, Augustin summarizes: “It’s kind of a small business! » On paper, their place is effectively a common law company, managed like a cooperative: everyone has shares, there is no hierarchy, and power is not dependent on the capital we brought in at the start. . This is the form of participatory housing for which they have collectively opted, but each of the 900 places of this kind scattered over the territory has its specificity.


Since 2009, participatory housing has experienced an average growth of 18% per year, going from 44 annual projects to 270 in 2021, which now represents 9,000 housing units. (Source: Participatory housing France.)

Among the residents, his ex-companion Agathe, 32 years old. Trained in fashion design, she had converted to green tourism before becoming a yoga teacher and a producer of aromatic herbs when she settled there. With Augustin, they remained very good friends. Community life made them rethink the couple. “We were 100% of the time together. It was intense and fun to experience, but it exacerbated our differences. If we had kept a classic life as a couple, it would have lasted longer for sure. »

A united system

Both agree today on the fact that this way of life cannot suit everyone. Explains to him: There are constraints that can be likened to a loss of freedom from the outside. » More philosophical, Agathe adds: “You have to be ready to make concessions and above all to question yourself. » Before concluding : “This very supportive system allows me as a young woman to live in an incredible place… and to own it! »

“Participatory housing”, what?

It is “a civic approach that allows people […] to associate […] 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 built or acquired, according to the Alur law of 2014, which governs it.

This definition covers several designations: “cohousing”, “group housing”, “collective housing”, etc. Alternative and “tailor-made”, this way of life can take different legal forms: cooperative societies of inhabitants (cooperative contracts) or allocation and self-promotion societies (co-ownership contracts).

In France, there are 900 participatory habitats (in 2021) including new housing (source: Habitat participatif France). Among our neighbours, the trend is more marked: in Switzerland, it is estimated that 5% of the housing stock is built in this way, or 130,000 dwellings. In Norway, the figures are around 15% of the park. The palm goes to Oslo, with 40% of its stock or to Tübingen, in Germany, where more than 80% of new housing is built in participatory housing (source: Ministry of Ecology).

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“We live in a community in a participatory habitat”

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