Living in an office, a housing solution

Came from the Netherlands, an occupancy of vacant space system against a low-rent begins to settle in France: the goal is to temporarily occupy offices, waiting for lease or sale.

"Nice residence home 4000 m2 shared within a plot of several acres on the edge of town park. Parking. 195 euros per month, water, electricity and heating included. 10 km from Poissy (Yvelines). " The proposal is attractive to the point of feeling the sting. However, it is serious. By late May, the company will install Camelot Property in the former retirement home, ten "temporary residents" to dwell.

Founded in 1993 in the Netherlands, Camelot Property offers individuals temporarily occupying public or private buildings, awaiting sale, rental or renovation in exchange for a low monthly fee. By their mere presence, "tenants guards" help secure the scene. This original formula has been proven in Northern Europe, where the group is present in five countries (Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, United Kingdom, Germany).

In the Netherlands, where this activity is an economic sector in its own right, more than 50,000 people and live in places that range from simple desktop to the disused barracks, through castles, old school or an old airbase. The equivalent of the SNCF, the Ministry of Finance or the Dutch defense uses its services.


In France, the formula only happens today. Yet it has a legal framework for three years. Section 101 of the Act of March 25, 2009 mobilization for housing and the fight against exclusion has created an experimental device called "temporary residence." For each operation, the prefecture that verifies the safety and suitability of premises are insured and "dignity and respect for the privacy of residents." The maximum amount of the fee is set by law to a maximum of € 200. "We put a maximum of ten residents per site, each of which has a private space from 20 to 100 m2. Kitchen and bathroom can be shared, "said Olivier Berbudeau, development director of Camelot Property, responsible for initiating the activity in France.

Residents are placed in strategic locations in the building and on the lower floors for fire safety reasons. This low human presence can limit charges (water, electricity, heating), paid by the owner. The company retains only property that have a good level of equipment. Most buildings have a kitchen and sanitary facilities (toilets and showers) in sufficient numbers. Water, electricity and heating should work.

For the owner, this formula returns on average 500 euros per month per building, against EUR 150 000 per year for a single guard. Besides saving on the cost of security, temporary occupation preserves local squatters, vandalism or accidents (water leak, fire.). In exchange, the tenant will be able to leave within four weeks and is committed to preventing the company in case of intrusion or natural deterioration. In countries where the system is already well established, the period of occupation varies on average from nine to twelve months. For its part, the tenant may terminate at any time upon 15 days notice, his contract.


There are three years, the Dutch group had tried to settle in France, via a now-defunct legal entity. A building in Paris was lawfully occupied by temporary residents. But the experiment was cut short after four months, the sale of the building. The company Camelot Property trying a new breakthrough. Despite careful selection - an application in three selected - volunteers are scrambling.

"We do not send to vulnerable populations, warns Berbudeau. But employees or persons guaranteeing aged 25 to 35 regular income around 2000 euros, childless, preferably with experience in colocation, which will occupy the property peacefully. "Animals are not accepted. Another constraint, the occupier must ensure that it has a commitment to relocation by a relative. "The goal is not to generate uncertainty," the head of Camelot.

For Julien Bayou, co-founder of Black Thursday, a group that condemns poor housing and the high cost of real estate, this initiative has limits. "In principle, it is well to fire on all cylinders to optimize the vacancy, but this solution generates a new offer for those who may already be housed," said the activist, also elected to the regional council of Ile-de-France on the common list PS-Europe Ecology. "We are a simple alternative to expensive housing, not a solution against poor housing, defends Olivier Berbudeau. The flexibility of this approach may be suitable for persons professional mobility, training or for young people entering their first job or apprenticeship. " By 2012, the company hopes to manage in France twenty buildings and hundreds of temporary residents. The market would be carrying. 5.5 million square meters of office space is unoccupied, with 3.5 million of them in Paris and Ile-de-France.

Read our stories, "A month's notice, no deposit. This is what I wanted. "

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