The Abbé Pierre, building agitator
“If you want to influence housing, you must create your own HLM Company.” Who gave this advice to the Abbé? It doesn’t matter. But he takes it seriously from January 54 onwards, a few days before sending out his Call, the statues of the HLM ltd are filed on January 25, 1954.
At first, carried by the insurrection of kindness, HLM ltd buys many sites and starts building immediately, as fast as possible, to give a roof to the needy. Plessis-Trévise, Argenteuil, Sartrouvillle… the Board agrees to buy land in the outskirts of Paris, till 1957. It then embarks in “Logécos”, apartment buildings, in addition to the construction of affordable housing for a majority.
Until the 70s, HLM ltd follows the rapid growth of construction in France. From 150 housing units in 1954, it reaches 7900 in 1975 and has 440 shareholders and a capital of 7 million francs.
Shelter in the face of emergency, of course! But we can’t stop there; we must provide decent and perennial housing for the poorest among us. And the Abbé doesn’t stop, who would?
“We need sustainable housing.”
This thriving track record should not hide the difficulties. Buying and building aren’t enough. The question of the cost of housing and the solvency of tenants faces the company on regular basis; calls to the public authorities follow one another in order for finances to be released (building subsidies, personalised help).
During the last thirty years, HLM ltd helped the weakest in their housing endeavours, diversified its offers, and tackled social diversity, not to mention the improvement of its housing stock.
In 1996, in Chaville, the last emergency estate of the Abbé Pierre, built by HLM ltd, disappears, and in 2003 it becomes Emmaüs Habitat. Today it boasts 13 000 social housing units, 27 social residences, CHRS (Centres d'Hébergement et de Réinsertion Sociale or Sheltering and Social Reintegration Centres) and relay houses.
Modelled on the Foundation Abbé Pierre, which became the major shareholder in 2013, Emmaüs Habitat is concerned with the living conditions of persons in difficulty, particularly taking into account the needs and the rights of tenants, always among the most modest.