Communal housing, an alternative and tailor-made form of housing

Co-operative (participatory) housing is based on a citizen style approach: it allows groups of people to build their own housing and to share an ecological and community lifestyle at a lower cost. It is governed by Alur law of France.

Taking part in a co-operative housing group starts with coming together to find a plot, then designing housing to suit the needs and tastes of each person; this visualises and then evolves a different, more ecological and community-based way of living.

The notion of an alternative yet proven way of living is the foundation of cooperative housing, sustainable development is one of its pillars. The project evolves by applying the following precepts as closely as possible: building orientation, renewable heat sources, waste management, choice of materials, etc. Financially, it is proven that a co-operative housing project can build with carefully controlled costs.

Germany, Switzerland, Norway: pioneers in co-opertaive housing
Did you know? Whilst participatory housing is only just emerging in France, it is already well developed in Germany, Switzerland and Norway. In Switzerland, an estimated 5% of the housing stock has been built using this method, i.e. 130,000 dwellings. In Norway, the figures are around 15% of the stock., in particular in Oslo, it is 40% of the housing stock; whilst in Tübingen, Germany, more than 80% of new housing is built using co-operative projects.

The legal framework for participatory housing

It was the French Alur law of 24 March 2014 that created a legal status for cooperative (participatory) housing.

With the Alur law, the people participating in a co-operative housing project have the status of partners and therefore acquire shares in the companies before commencement. All partners actively participate in the design decisions relating to the construction, or acquisition, of the building and then, if necessary, in the management of the buildings.

These participatory housing companies can also take the form of a residents' cooperative or a self-development company, these new legal forms are not compulsory for this type of project.

Measures common to all types of companies have been provided for in the French
Alur Act, including

  • The possibility of admitting legal entities as partners, in particular social housing organisations;
  • The limitation of the liability of the partners to their contribution to the capital;
  • The possibility of transforming an existing company into a residents' cooperative or into a self-development company;
  • The obligation for non-member tenants to sign a charter setting out the operating rules of the building, in particular the use of the communal areas, which are then attached to their lease contract;
  • The obligation of these companies is to provide a guarantee that ensures the completion of the building.

Cooperative societies

Cooperative societies of inhabitants may take civil or commercial form and are governed by the non-contradictory provisions of the law of 10 September 1947 on the status of cooperation.

Their purpose is to provide their members with the use of housing and shared spaces. To this end, they may build or acquire a building; they then manage and maintain the building. An anti-speculation mechanism is provided for (sale price of shares limited to their nominal amount increased by the IRL) and exit from the company is controlled in order to financially secure the company. These companies are authorised to offer services to third parties, although the volume of these activities is limited. The cooperative members must pay a fee, in particular to repay the loan taken out by the company for the construction of the building.

A cooperative contract is concluded between the residents' cooperative society and each cooperative member before the latter takes possession. It should be noted that industrial shares, corresponding to a work contribution, can be subscribed to by the co-operators during the construction or renovation phase of the property project or during building rehabilitation work. These shares contribute towards the formation of the share capital.

Allocation and self-development companies

Allocation and self-development companies may take a civil or commercial form. Their purpose is to allocate the use or ownership of housing to their members. They can construct a building for this purpose. In contrast to residents' cooperatives, these companies can give rise to co-ownership, the articles of association provide for an allocation of ownership activated as soon as one of the members withdraws or the company is dissolved. If the articles of association
provide for the allocation of property, the intention is for company to continue. Exits from the company are also regulated in order to secure the company's financial stability.

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