As the first cooperative residence in France, this social and ecological housing project was designed by residents making them the sole collective owners who manage democratically without speculation or profit. This is a project of human scale that has 14 dwellings – a dozen social dwellings and four “very social”.
As a collective, non-profit property, this co-op positions itself as a democracy (one resident = one voice) and solidarity, meaning that four “very social” dwellings will be assigned to young people whose situations require support. According to the Vertical Village Association, with the help of professionals, neighbours are committed to showing particular care on a daily basis to these youth who will be full members of the co-op.
This social innovation reflects the degree of inadequate housing, but also the emerging concept of collective housing which is considered a field of alternative experimentation. According to the committee president of Habitat de la Fondation de France, “The project’s original homes represent the modest resources of the middle class who want to get out of the HLM housing project and live another way with a pleasant lifestyle and good neighbour relations.”
The Villeurbanne Vertical Village project is striving to spread the idea until it is considered “commonplace housing” in a few years. Associations are trying to make it the norm for students and older people to build relationships enough for them to share a dwelling. For seniors, offering part of their place to a young person in exchange for a small contribution and a little company is the principle.
The old style of “cooperative-type housing” was tested in France with success. One of the best known was the Cité Radieuse of Le Corbusier in Marseille. It was a housing space designed to maximize use of the communal areas and reinforce the spirit of mutual aid and cohabitation between renters and owners.
In other countries particularly in Quebec, housing co-ops were historically very strongly developed.
Accessibility to housing has become extremely difficult in most large French cities. Private rents have risen significantly more than average earnings thereby creating demand for social housing which, in turn, created overdemand. Requests for access to social housing files have increased waiting times. The turnover rate – or replacement rates for families entering and leaving their housing project – has also declined significantly in the last few years. According to the Office Public de l’Habitat Lyonnais, the turnover rate has decreased from 12% in 2000 to 7% in 2011. As a result, finding alternative solutions to affordable housing is actively being researched.
Vertical villagers would each like to have housing in the same building, share certain spaces and resources and create real neighbourhood solidarity including: savings, mutual aid, ecology and democracy. Residents will be the building’s sole collective owner and each household will rent out their dwelling through democratic management that would prohibit any speculation or profit.
The first major partners of the Vertical Village in Villeurbanne are the HABICOOP Association and the HLM Rhône-Saône-Habitat cooperative. The association also received support from the cities of Villeurbanne and Grand Lyon, the region of Rhône-Alpes, the European Union, Fondation de France, DIESS, NEF and the URSCOP.