Housing crisis.  These French people who choose to live at the campsite

Housing crisis. These French people who choose to live at the campsite

When finding accommodation becomes mission impossible, staying in a campsite represents an alternative adopted today by tens of thousands of French people. To escape the worst, but not only that.

Every day, or almost every day, Sylvie, manager of Criquet, in Yvelines, answers the phone to very specific requests: those from people who want to come and live in her campsite. “Today, finding accommodation is becoming so difficult that people are turning to this option,” says the woman whose establishment remains open all year round, while most close in winter.

Synonymous with vacations, nights in a tent and a summer change of scenery for most French people, camping is becoming a place of daily life for a growing number of them. As it is not the subject of any census by INSEE, the phenomenon is impossible to quantify precisely but would concern tens of thousands of people. Mobile home, caravan, chalet, shed or bungalow, rented or purchased, ranging from high-end to second-hand shelters, the diversity of forms of housing equals that of the profiles and motivations of residents, between very precarious situations and others more established.

Living on a campsite offers the advantage of avoiding the burdensome procedures when looking for accommodation, with no guarantee of results. There, there is no need for a file, guarantor or deposit, and the contract conditions are less restrictive than on the rental market. For Manuel Domergue, director of studies at the Abbé-Pierre Foundation, the development of residential camping firstly reflects the housing crisis: “We are going through a shortage of affordable rental housing. For seasonal or precarious workers, people experiencing disruption (such as loss of a job, divorce, widowhood, Editor’s note) , or even for young people in social difficulty, camping represents an accessible and easy solution. »

4 million poorly housed people in France

Joining them are couples (with or without children) who hope to save before buying, and more and more retirees who are now moving into what was their second home. So many journeys which demonstrate, to varying degrees, a worsening of the difficulty of finding accommodation. In its latest report on the subject, the Abbé-Pierre Foundation reports that 4 million people are poorly housed and 330,000 homeless. In addition, the construction of social housing is declining, despite strong demand: in France, 2.4 million households are waiting for social housing, compared to 2 million in 2017. In such a context, residential camping represents some a refuge that they hope will be temporary. Others demand a choice of life. “We really like it there,” says Emilia in a confident voice. When she and her husband retired four years ago, the couple sold their house to settle permanently at the La Grisse campsite, in Vendée. They had already been going there on vacation for a year, in a caravan. “We did not make this choice for financial reasons. We wanted a change. Here, we have more freedom, and fewer charges and maintenance linked to a house,” explains Émilia. With their mobile home, a terrace and two sheds (all for 100,000 euros) five minutes by car from the sea, the couple enjoys a comfortable lifestyle. “In this family campsite, everyone gets along well,” emphasizes Émilia.

Solène lived with her partner and their three children in a campsite near Auxerre (Yonne) for seven years. At the end of April, the family swapped their mobile home for a chalet: “But only for a while, before we decide on another campsite or a rental,” she explains. The 37-year-old musician and actress fears losing “an immense freedom of mind” by giving up this way of life.

“It offers a form of independence. We can live where we want, when we want. And something powerful happens at a campsite: we meet a lot of people there, we experience deep exchanges. We feel close to nature, to the hail, to the sun, to the wind,” shares Solène in a cheerful tone. One of the reasons that pushed his family to leave? The rise in prices. “Living at the campsite isn’t that cheap,” she explains. Some are willing to pay 30 euros per day to benefit from the form of simplicity they are looking for. »

Of the 35 permanent residents that Sylvie currently welcomes to her campsite in Yvelines, more than half rent mobile homes from her, the other owns their home. Everyone pays 300 euros per month for a plot, to which is sometimes added the rent for the mobile home (between approximately 300 and 400 euros). “It’s not always their first choice in life,” explains the manager. But some ultimately decided to stay because they liked it. They find advantages in living in nature while remaining close to the city. »

A legal status to be reviewed

This mode of living is not without its drawbacks. “Winter is not always easy,” admits Solène. Despite the cold, you have to fetch water with the jerrycans, go to the campsite showers…” But the difficulties encountered are notably linked to the absence of their own legal status. Legislatively, two codes apply to campgrounds. That of tourism, which prohibits domiciliation, and that of town planning, according to which campsites can only accommodate habitats intended for seasonal or temporary occupation for leisure use. However, in reality and despite the risks incurred by residents deprived of rights relating to the notion of domicile, the practice is widespread.

Making domiciliation in campsites possible for those who wish it is essential for Camille, a member of the Halem association which fights for better recognition of residents of ephemeral or mobile accommodation. Enough to “avoid creating instability for people already in precarious residential situations”. This immediate response for the protection of residents must be accompanied by substantive reflection, underlines Manuel Domergue: “All the people who make this choice by default would like to have real housing. »And to recall the need to produce more social housing and to develop more affordable rents in the private sector. Until then, the phone will continue to ring at Sylvie's, in Yvelines.

Without recognized domicile

Residential camping is not regulated by the law relating to housing, but governed by regulations put in place freely by the operator of the land who can decide at any time to end the occupation without having to justify himself.

Deprived of the rights and guarantees associated with the rental lease, residents do not benefit from the protection of a minimum duration and cannot request personalized housing assistance (APL). Neither the winter break nor tacit renewal (legal mechanism by which a contract is automatically renewed on its expiry date without the need for a new agreement) apply in their case. In addition, residents do not own the land and suffer a loss of asset value: on average, a mobile home loses half of its value in three years.

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