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Housings and contemporary spaces of places of residence

Matthieu Gateau, Hervé Marchal et Jean-François Léger

Between the beginning of the 19th century and the end of the 20th century, the spatial settlement of population experienced a tremendous evolution in France, leading to a reversal of the proportion between rural and urban people: while nine out of ten people lived in the countryside in 1800, an equivalent proportion now live under the influence of cities, according to INSEE (Brutel, 2011). This gradual and relentless movement from the countryside to the city explains why social science researches on places French people are housing, have been polarized into rural or urban studies. This change in population settlement, linked to the industrial revolution and a new forms of work organization based on geographical concentration of the workforce, was often perceived as perfectly coherent with an evolutionist conception of modern societies. In this way, the residential movement from rural to urban, from individual houses and “mechanical solidarities”, to collective dwellings and “organic solidarities”, would be without return.

However, preference for individual house never stopped: after World War II (Girard, Stoezel, 1947), as well as today (Damon, 2017), 75% of French would prefer to live in a single detached house, or in subdivision. The widespread use of cars in the 1970s allowed many to live according to these preference (Marchal, 2014). Since that time, this is consequently in the peri-urban surroundings of cities that population growth rates are the highest (Baccaïni, Sémurbe, 2009). More recently, rural areas have also found a new demographic attractiveness (Laganier, Vienna, 2009). In fact, between these opposite poles of residence (rural and urban), a great diversity of living spaces has developed, such as the rural metropolis, the suburban, the « para-urban » (Chalard, Dumont, 2007) or the « pre-urban » (Marchal, Stébé, 2017). Unequally densitied, these spaces can also endorse various forms (for example isolated settlements, gated communities, subdivisions, etc.) impacting their socio-demographic composition, as well as transforming problems their inhabitants are facing.

Therefore this issue of Space populations societies aims at identifying, characterizing and questioning the contemporary spaces of residential settlement, and different kinds of housing, in the new context of increasing awareness about environmental issues. The ambition of reducing the come and go mobility carried out with individual means of transportation, the desire to optimize public transport infrastructure, and the emergence of objectives for the reduction of artificial spaces on the outskirts of cities, are among arguments mobilized for the continuation of population densification in urban areas (the "compact" city). At the same time, public or community initiatives for the development of green spaces in the city are not lacking. Eco-neighborhood projects are developing, and arrangements in favor of soft modes of travel are increasing. But this is not certain that these intentions, so praiseworthy are, ensure the conditions of a sustainable, and socially equal development of cities. The increase in downtown land prices of large cities makes for example inaccessible the latter to a part of the middle class and more still to the least easy social categories.

Furthermore, the populations living in the big French metropolises are always submitted to considerable levels of pollution. Thus, in Paris, in 2016, 1.4 million people in Paris area and nearly one in every two Parisians were exposed to levels of pollution higher than European standards (source: Airparif, quoted by Le Monde, 10/10/2017). Some prospective studies indicate temperatures could rise by more than 8 ° C by 2100 in the world's largest cities (Estrada, Botzen, Tol, 2017). If the residential future of the man is no longer the (very) big city within the collective dwellings are concentrated, does one must then consider the other places of life and the individual house, isolated or grouped, like a move that spatial planning policies should rather accompany than stigmatize?

The contemporary tools of communication, the searches regarding clean and autonomous vehicles, the will to shorten the distribution network of consumer goods (in particular food), are so many factors able also to legitimize these spaces and forms of residential presence, from an environmental point of view. Why not rethink from them on the local plans of town planninh (PLU), according not only to residential preferences of individuals, but also to the choices they concretely make regarding housing?

This issue of Space populations societies is thus opened to any contribution participating in a better knowledge and understanding:

 Of individuals’ preferences and choices concerning residential space and housing, and the link between the place of life and the shape taken by the housing (isolated housing environment or in private housing estate; more or less closed or / and secure residence; collective housing etc.);

 Of sociodemographic composition within different spaces and forms of residential presence, and relations of sociability within them or / and between them

 The joint articulation between individuals’ choices, their life cycle, and the consequences on the renewal of populations within housing and spaces of residence.

 Of the way individuals’ choices and preferences regarding accommodation and place of life, could be taken into account within the framework of town and county planning policies, in coherence with imperatives of sustainable development.

If the topic of this issue leans on the French case, expected article are not limited on the other hand to this only ground. Works focusing on other countries will be the object of an equal attention. At last, the journal Space populations societies being opened to the multidisciplinarity, the reserved texts can join the geography, the demography and the sociology fields, or / and the crossroads of these disciplines.


Deadline proposal submission (title and abstract of approximately 350 words) : october 29th 2018.
Committee review selection : in the end of november 2018
Deadline for paper submission : in the end of april 2019


Matthieu Gateau
MCF, Centre Georges Chevrier UMR CNRS 7366, Université de Bourgogne

Hervé Marchal
Pr, Centre Georges Chevrier UMR CNRS 7366, Université de Bourgogne

Jean-François Léger
MCF, Institut de démographie de l'Université Paris 1


B. Baccaïni, F. Sémécurbe (2009), « La croissance périurbaine depuis 45 ans. Extension et densification », Insee Première, n° 1240, juin, 4 p.

C. Brutel (2011), « Le nouveau zonage en aire urbaine de 2010. 95 % de la population vit sous l’influence des villes », Insee Première, n° 1374, octobre, 4 p.

L. Chalard, G.-F. Dumont (2007), « Territoires français : le renforcement de la « para-urbanisation » et de la « litturbanisation » », Population & Avenir, n° 682, pp. 14-16.

J. Damon (2017), « Les Français et l’habitat individuel : préférences révélées et déclarées », SociologieS [En ligne], Dossiers, « Où en est le pavillonnaire ? », mis en ligne le 21 février 2017, consulté le 15 juin 2017. URL :

F. Estrada, W. Botzen, R. Tol (2017), “A global economic assessment of city policies to reduce climate change impacts”, Nature Climate Change 7, 403-406.

A. Girard, J. Stoezel (1947), Désirs des Français en matière d’habitation urbaine : une enquête par sondage, Paris, PUF-Ined, 148 p.

J. Laganier, D. Vienne (2009), « Recensement de la population de 2006. La croissance retrouvée des espaces ruraux et des grandes villes », Insee Première, n° 1218, janvier, 4 p.

H. Marchal (2014), Un sociologue au volant, Paris, Téraèdre, 184 p.

H. Marchal, J.-M. Stébé (2017), « Le pré-urbain : un territoire refuge aux confins du périubain éloigné », Métropolitiques, 30 octobre 2017. URL :

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