To never go to a retirement home, these seniors have created their cooperative of inhabitants

To age better and better, let’s live together. This is the challenge of a group of young retirees from Lyon who decided to build an ecological and participative habitat. After two years of work, it was inaugurated last summer.

Rather than live in a retirement home or stay alone at home, a group of seniors decided to take matters into their own hands: they build their own residence governed by the principle of cooperative.

“The old age has become a real business where investors are offered to put their money at 6% to build parks to old,” protested Patrick Chrétien, a retired teacher. Rather than pay “2,000 euros per month to be animated”, he and a score of young retired friends opted in 2009 for an original solution: build a collective housing, adapted to old age, friendly and environmentally friendly.

A challenge for these retirees, especially with banks and communities that they managed to convince to obtain three loans up to 1.9 million euros and negotiated … over fifty years. “When I asked my banker for this money, his first reaction was to cough,” laughs Patrick again. “And then he realized there was no more risk than with any company. If one of us leaves, another will take his place. “

Architect’s view of the future Chamarel-Les Barges building. (Credit: Chamarel)


After four years of design and two years of work, the building called Chamarel – Les Barges – after the name of their cooperative inhabitants – is finally out of the ground in the town of Vaulx-en-Velin, a suburb of Lyon. Four floors high, it is isolated in straw and has fourteen T2 of 45 m2 and two T3 of 63 m2.

In addition to the apartments, the building contains many collective spaces: three guest rooms to accommodate children and grandchildren, a common room with kitchen, a DIY workshop, a laundry room, an office for the association Chamarel, a local bike, parking, gardens … And even hives on the roof!


“Unlike a classic residence for seniors where everyone is locked up at home, we made the choice to live together,” explains Patrick Chrétien. Here, no leaders: decisions are made by consensus among the future inhabitants of the project. “It’s a little slower than voting, but the decisions are much stronger over time,” says Patrick.

There will also be no real estate speculation: to live in this small ecological building, everyone will have to pay a monthly rent between 600 and 800 euros. Plus a share of about 30,000 euros, adjusted according to the means of each and will go to the cooperative. If one of them has to leave one day, this sum will be refunded to him to the penny, with the inflation but without taking into account the variations of the real estate market.


A complex legal arrangement, for which the retirees of Chamarel received the help of another association: Habicoop . “In 1971, the state abolished the status of inhabitant co-operatives and we had to be creative using the existing statutes. Hence the choice of a SAS subject to the Cooperatives Act of 1947 “, explains Valérie Morel, its coordinator. “Thanks to the example of Chamarel but also that of other collectives such as Babayagas or the vertical village of Villeurbanne, the state finally accepted our demands and reintroduced the participative habitat in the 2014 Alur law.”

A victory that should surely allow the multiplication of this kind of initiative. “We have requests that are emerging from all over France,” rejoices Valérie Morel. “My phone keeps ringing! “. While price is of course a key factor, the group housing for the elderly meets, according to her, a growing need for “self-management and respect for the person”. That, and the pleasure of consuming his homemade honey.

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