Romain Minod: Paris

Image for Romain Minod: Paris
Place des Vosges

14/Quatorze’s Romain Minod fights the ‘old men with old heads’ in seeking to solve Paris’ housing shortages. To find out more about Minod’s thoughts on collaborative housing approaches, you can catch him at the Experimentdays 10: Project exhibition and discussion on Saturday, October 30.

What is the housing situation in Paris like right now?

While the city of Paris has a shortage of affordable housing – we’d need another 300,000 places to satisfy the demand – 10 percent of the buildings are actually empty, which means owners keep them unoccupied for speculative reasons. Right now, with rents at about €23/sqm, people like students can’t afford to live in the middle of the city.

What can be done to improve the situation?

I think the most important thing is to redefine the city limits. We should try not to see the suburbs as suburbs, but a center to develop. Like Montreuil, in the eastern part of Paris – a lot of young people have started to move there. As they need bars, restaurants and so on, it has created a dynamic of its own. If you make these places attractive, the city will grow, and housing capacities as well.

How does 14/Quatorze – and your squatting a hotel particulier in one of the most exclusive parts of the city – fit into that picture?

We need to promote the idea of ‘third places’, places where students’ utopia meet the pragmatism of professionals. The squat I live in right now is located on the Place des Vosges [photo]. It is called La Marquise, and we set it up in cooperation with Jeudi Noir, a collective fighting for better housing. It was empty when we entered it, and we renovated it: we fixed water leaks, made sure that the electricity worked, etc.

We also organised a workshop with students in architecture. Two facades were built in recycled materials to create an access to the basement. A garden made of pallets was created in order to open a public ‘passage’, an agora for the city and its citizens. The whole idea was to show the media the idea of constructive occupation. It’s a way to take care of the city, of its forgotten places and abandoned buildings – a way to give people a roof, a way to create alternative public spaces that each city needs. It’s better than to put locks on doors and rent a security guy with an aggressive dog, don’t you think?

Is the city of Paris supportive of alternative housing solutions?

We are doing a project called Speranza with homeless people; for that, the authorities have opened up public buildings like empty gymnasiums for homeless people to sleep in during the winter. However, generally the people in power are old men with old heads. We’re waiting for the Erasmus generation to take over: they are the ones who have studied abroad and opened up to a more project-based pedagogy, which is key to work on better housing.

Paris stats:

Population 2,203,817

Average apartment purchase price/sqm in the city centre €7833

Average monthly disposable income (after tax) €1855

Density/sqkm 3550

Average rent for a one-bedroom in the city centre €808/month