Making new consumption patterns affordable in social housing neighbourhoods

Villeurbanne, France Local social sustainability
Responsible Housing Award
“It promotes a shift to a sustainable living.”



The four targeted neighbourhoods are within urban renewal areas and concentrate strong indicators of poverty and isolation with a high proportion of single-parent families and an ageing population.
The local context presents:
▶ A weak purchasing power due to high rates of inactivity and unemployment, high level of indebted households, leading to consumption of cheap hence low quality products.
▶ Severe consequences of a poor diet on health: a study by the Regional Health Observatory from January 2016 shows a rate of diabetes twice higher in these neighbourhoods
than in the rest of the city. Moreover, the percentage of overweight children reaches 23% compared to 15% in other schools.
▶ An interest for sustainable nutrition among the inhabitants, diagnosed by a local study and confirmed by partners as well as
by the employees of EMH -particularly by the building care takers who also live in these neighbourhoods.

Issues tackled

Est Métropole Habitat (EMH) is committed to going beyond its core missions, i.e. building, maintaining and managing dwellings, by
providing to its tenants innovative services improving their living conditions and social bonds. The overall goal is thus to ensure a fair
social functioning in the neighbourhoods and buildings as well as to increase the attractiveness of these areas, thereby contributing
to the self-esteem of their inhabitants.
This project contributes to:
▶ Access, both in terms of affordability and proximity. This also has to do with giving back a certain dignity to the inhabitants.
▶ Improving nutrition and health, which is a shared objective with national and local public policies.
▶ Empowerment and active inclusion. The initiatives were designed for and by the inhabitants who can participate in different
ways depending on their time and competences.
▶ Revamped dialogue between landlords and tenants in a less formal way and on matters other than everyday problems.
Through this kind of projects EMH also aims at identifying and mobilising potential leaders among tenants.

Actors involved

  • Est Métropole Habitat

Actions carried out

  • Involvment of volunteers
  • Communication tools, such as leaflets, flyers, posters, Facebook pages, a website, videos etc., designed


In 2015, 1700 boxes were distributed by Légum’au Logis;
VRAC counted 700 subscribers after only two years of existence. The financial impact on households’ purchasing power
is more difficult to measure since prices proposed are similar to those in hard-discount supermarkets. An evaluation of
avoided costs-such as less waste due to consuming local and unprocessed food, and, in the longer run, less health expenditures thanks to a better diet- may provide more interesting insights.
On the other hand, a qualitative assessment of such actions often provides valuable observations as the most remarkable impact is, certainly, social: the projects enable tenants, but also people from elsewhere and EMH employees, to meet and thus break social isolation. In the end, the collective empowerment of beneficiaries contributes to the autonomy and self-governance of the actions.
From an internal perspective at EMH, after 5 years of experimentation, this innovative approach is now parts of ordinary practice as each department has progressively taken owners
hip of the project.

Why it works

The approach of EMH thought and worked out of the box in two key areas:
▶ The topics chosen: The three actions are related to nutrition and consumption patterns. It is rather unusual for a social landlord
to be interested in these issues, even though an indirect link can be traced to disposable income of households through possible
savings induced. EMH’s main entry point, however, has been the strengthening of social ties via the encounters proposed.
▶ The Methods & Procedures to get to the desired outcome: EMH invested in Légum’au Logis and VRAC by conducting a need assessment study in the targeted neighbourhoods, identifying relevant partner associations, engaging consultants for project development, mobilising its employees for reaching out to potential beneficiaries and finally financing the operating costs until a financially viable model could be found. New solutions had to be invented at every step. This challenged the already established procedures at EMH, the communication practices and finally led to the creation of an internal Social Innovation service.