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11/08/2021 Comments (0) Architecture, Culture, Other, Real Estate

Lille: 26, Place aux Bleuets. To live together, in the city.

How to strengthen social ties in urban areas, ensuring to bring together generations, situations and backgrounds? Mission accomplished in the Villa Village. 

This imposing building, located in the city centre, was bought and renovated by Anne de la Baume, a retired Parisian who fell in love with Lille and decided to make an investment with added human value. This was achieved by creating a foundation, which covered the renovation costs (3 million euros) of this former mansion. 

The Villa Village welcomes students, young employees, seniors, and people in great difficulty who have sometimes been homeless. A great generational and social mix, and facilities that promote discussion: a laundry room with washing machines and dryers, a fully equipped kitchen where everyone can come and prepare meals at any time – and even share them – and a super comfortable lounge. The interior layout allows everyone to feel “as in a village”, without the tenants feeling obliged to see each other if they do not wish to do so.  

“To be in the city is to be at the centre of life itself”

All in relative discretion: no social networks, no website. Candidate tenants are simply invited to go there and slip their applications into the mailbox. Old-school management. 

Lille - Villa-Village © Anne de la Baume

Lille – Villa-Village © Anne de la Baume

The design, however, is firmly modern and innovative: part of the renovation has been the subject of a contemporary architectural intervention since a mirror extension of corrugated iron reflects the old body of lodgings. 

The rents are modest (15 euros per m2), and the foundation fully pays the charges (one of the originalities of the initiative). Whatever their background, most of the inhabitants have in common experiences of poor housing (unsanitary conditions, living on the streets, excessive rent, etc.). Associations usually put forward future tenants. Their rent is about 20% lower than the standard in Lille. And, opposed to the general rule, tenants don’t have to provide a payslip, an income guarantee or proof of a sum of money blocked in an account. 

The dream of the creator of this place: that others take up the idea and create Villas Villages all over France. “Rather than making buildings for students and others for the elderly, combine them“, she advises.

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