France: in housing difficulties, single-parent families share a common roof

France: in housing difficulties, single-parent families share a common roof

“A temporary decompression airlock”: near Paris, single parents have been living together since December, an initiative popular in the United States which is trying to establish itself in France, where a quarter of families are single parents.

Located in Poissy, in the west of the Paris region, the Commune residence was designed to accommodate 13 parents and their children in spaces of 30m2 (bedrooms, kitchenette and bathroom) for a monthly rent of between 1,190 and 1,450 euros .

For this amount, the tenants (almost all mothers) share a dining room, a garden, a coworking space, a climbing wall, a laundry room and a bar in the basement. As well as cleaning costs, internet and streaming subscription, academic support and even legal assistance.

Co-living for single-parent families

The concept of co-living has existed for a long time for young professionals, students, seniors, people with disabilities, but it did not exist for single parents“, Tara Heuzé-Sarmini, co-founder of the structure, told AFP.

Or, “the housing crisis is hitting people particularly hard single-parent families who will systematically be put into competition with so-called +traditional+ families or couples who have two incomes instead of one“, she notes.

Like Julie, about to pack her bags in Poissy. After her separation, this 31-year-old saleswoman says she found herself and her two-year-old daughter “in a housing problem”.

I searched for several months, but when I arrived for visits with a separated mother’s file and in front of me there was a couple with two salaries, I had no chance“, she says.

The observation is not new. In 2017, a report from the defender of rights estimated that a single-parent family was “twice as much” exposed to discrimination in the search for housing “than a two-parent family”.

And the situation has deteriorated further with the housing crisis, marked by a scarce supply and increasing demands from owners.

Worse, the representations “sometimes associated with the figure of the single mother, sometimes considered +irresponsible+ sometimes +vulnerable+, can lead to longer waiting times for certain women to access social housing“, noted the Abbé Pierre Foundation in its 2023 report on poor housing.

“A landing cushion”

In this context, Commune aims to be “a transitional solution”, according to its designer. With one-year leases, renewable twice, “we try to offer the best possible landing cushion for families who have become single parents“.

The idea is not to live there forever. I see it more as a decompression chamber to be able to better organize the rest peacefully, without being in the +where am I sleeping tonight?+“, says Julie.

Commune is aimed at profiles from the middle class. The start-up, which raised 1.5 million euros in funds in 2022, wants to open a residence in the north of France in March and is aiming for 500 ten years, in France, Europe and North America“.

Because this problem affects other countries, such as the United States where this type of “co-living” has been established informally and is now known under the name “mommune”.

The subject has been gaining momentum in recent years“, notes Nicolas Baumer, co-founder of the Lyon association Kozoku (Japanese neologism meaning the tribe of loners), which works on taking single parenthood into account in society.

Mayors are worried about seeing some of their residents and agents leave who, once separated, could no longer find accommodation in the municipality“, he said, a few weeks after being heard in the National Assembly on the subject.

Among the avenues mentioned, the creation of a “single-parent family status” or the establishment of tax advantages “for owners who rent their property to single parents for a few years, while they access social housing“.

According to official statistics, one in four families (24.7%) are single parents in France, a percentage increasing by three points in ten years.