Housing Cooperative in Formation

The group also calls itself an ecovillage and has planning since 2008. There is no ethic or driving spiritual force, outside of living in community and creating something to halt environment degradation through intentional agriculture, restoring the soil, and other communal efforts at sustainability. This vision, however, comes with the idea of creating a more diverse rural model that is intergenerational, and then also passing that model on. Unlike the dominant US notion where we all expect to own and profit from our own homes, the community consciously promotes the idea that the community as a whole promotes the value of the community, and are working to resocialize people about this way of thinking about property.

Vision

Legally what they want to do is called a land trust, with a conservation easement. Each involved will purchase a share in the cooperative (probably about 40K), with a lease for 99 years. Everyone will be both landlord and lessee in that sense, since they will also have a voice in the government of the community. If you leaves, you get some of the equity, although not as much as if you sold a house, and they haven’t decided yet how much; it will be your share plus some investment. There will also be a monthly fee — $1500-1600 on average (based on unit size) to cover the fees to maintain the common areas. Funding (as low as 2% rates) can come from the National Cooperative Bank.

The land they want to buy is sizeable but about three-quarters forested, with some cleared pasture. The community will have about 30 single-family homes in the 500-800 square feet range and 4-5 housing units for apartments. The houses will have a common aesthetic. There will be car sharing, a solar array, and the use of passive solar. There will be a common house with guest bedrooms.

There is to be a weekly work commitment. This will include child and elder care, as well as farming, cleaning of common areas, caring for animals, and the management of the forest land. However, it will not be an income sharing community; the founders actually feel that income sharing is limiting. “There are other ways to build fairness and community.” Members can create their own businesses there, but only ones that are consistent with the land.

Members

About 12-15 people are centrally committed and meet at least once a month. There is an additional group of 50 who come to some of the workdays. Then there is an outer circle of 50 more who are on the mailing list but even less committed (this now includes myself). They have been planning for a long time, but the group does plan to buy the land outright from the amenable owner within the year. Membership will involve a screening to make sure the persons share the values of the cooperative.

Government

They practice “sociocracy” in their decision making, which means if something is proposed, three things happen. Everyone goes around and gets to say something about the issue. Then everyone gets to ask a question. Then everyone who has concerns gets to say what would they need to know or what would need to change to make them more comfortable with the proposal. So it isn’t quite consensus but it’s a model that gives everyone a chance to contribute. Diana Leafe Christian, [1] who is at the heart of some of this, famously said “I’ve tried consensus and it doesn’t work.” Sociocracy also evolved from the decision-making at Quaker meetings. When it’s used in the business world it’s called “holocracy.” [2]

What are some of their struggles?

Getting people to make the financial commitment. There are only 3 individuals/couples who would move tomorrow; others are waiting to see how it falls out. Obviously a related struggle is recruitment. Lack of diversity is another. The modal category of involvement is a single woman in her 50s-60s, although there are some single men of that age and some couples. They have a few young people, a few with families, but the median age is high. They have a few Latinos in the interested group; not really any African-Americans. In terms of economic class diversity they are doing okay, but no serious money has been asked for yet.

[1] Christian, Diana Leafe. 2003, Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities. 2007, Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community

[2] Buck and Villines. 2007. We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy.

 

 

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