About 8 months ago we had a very interesting discussion on this blog about the concept of an intentional artists’ community. I think the discussion was so interesting because people who play around with paper mache are almost guaranteed to have great ideas about other parts of life, as well. After all, we take products that were originally intended for one use, and transform them into something entirely different. That process seems to be most inviting to people who are willing to think outside the box.
But actually, after I’d thought about it for several months, I realized that I would want our village to include people other than just artists.
Anyway, I think it’s now time to take another look at the idea of “building a village on purpose,” which is what most of the ideas in the last post were really about.
If enough people seem interested in this discussion, I might put up a new blog just to keep the discussion going. (First question: If we build a virtual village online, what should we call it? Names do help organize one’s thoughts, so chime in with your suggestions).
But this time, let’s imagine the new village growing in a real place, (which I’ll choose somewhat arbitrarily for the sake of discussion).Â I think that might help us think more concretely about what steps we would need to take to get from point A to point B.Â And, of course, we should discuss what point B really looks like, and how important it is to get there.
Even though the spot I’m proposing for our discussion is a real place, (follow that link to see photos), we don’t actually own it of course, and the real owners would probably be quite amused by our fantasies – but I still think it will be fun to put our ideas in a particular spot. Then we can imagine living by the stream, walking in the woods, taking steps to preserve the beauty of our new home, planting our garden, interacting with the local townspeople. It makes the ideas seem more real to me. I hope you agree.
There are a growing number of people discussing ideas like this online, but how many people are actually willing to sell their homes or leave their home towns to build a new village in the mountains of California (or wherever)? How practical is it to take that kind of risk in this economy? Or is this the best time to do it?
OK, for the purposes of this discussion, let’s imagine that our new village is built, one small home at a time, in this particular location. It’s currently for sale, and it has the infrastructure already set up for 33 small houses (which most people call RVs because they’re on wheels). To see how people build their own small homes on wheels, visit some of the websites listed at the bottom of this post. (Could we design a whole new way of building small houses, using our paper mache or sculpting skills? Hmm…)
I chose an RV park in a rural setting for this mind experiment for two reasons: first, most urban areas have minimum square foot requirements that make it too expensiveÂ for most people to build their own homes, and the size of the homes that are normally built in cities have a very high carbon footprint. Trying to build small in a city requires fighting with city hall, and I think there are better uses of our time. On the other hand, RV parks are already zoned for small homes, so there would be no fights with local authorities. Also, in our previous discussion I didn’t see anyone suggest that the new community should be inside a city. There seems to be a very real longing for a country place to call home.
Now let’s imagine what it would take to turn that beautiful spot into a thriving community. And once we have a picture in our heads of what that would look like, let’s discuss some of the following points (and anything else you might think is relevant…):
Would the land need to be owned by one person, by all villagers together as stockholders, or should it be set up as a land trust? How important would it be to know the land could not be sold to a developer? If someone decided to move out, how would that affect the ownership of the land?
How could the potential villagers put together the money ($376,000) to buy the land in this tight economy?Â Would it be reasonable or ethical to simply put up a request for donations from people who believe in the idea, and then put those donations into a trust? Who would manage the trust, and who would govern the community? Who would write the rules and write the checks?
Should the village charter set a maximum square foot limit on the homes in the village for environmental reasons? Should all the homes be hand built, according to common aesthetic values and environmental standards? If so, would that exclude people who would be great neighbors, but who don’t have the skills needed to build even a small house, but who might own a little camp trailer? If a maximum square foot limit is set, would it tend to exclude families with children? And would that be a good thing, when you consider how wonderful it would be to grow up in that beautiful environment?
What buildings and amenities should be available for village residents and visitors, including tools that can be owned in common? If the homes are small, there would need to be places for people to work and play outside the home. How should those needs be accommodated? Should some effort be made to entice a registered nurse to live in our village, perhaps with free rent in trade for village health care, since universal health care is still a long way off?
Should residents own their own homes, or should homes be built by the village corporation or trust and rented to residents?
Who should be allowed to live there? Should there be any exclusions at all based on occupation, lifestyle choices, diet, political orientation or religion? I vote no. What do you think?
What would the original statement of goals look like for a village you helped to build? Would you want the village to be part of the environmental movement, the transition movement, the small house movement, the local food movement, all of the above, or none of the above? What did I leave out?
Please offer your comments, if only to let me know I’m not the only one who thinks about things like this.
By the way, here are a few links to organizations that are already thinking along these lines, more or less:
Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, Small House Society, Transition Movement, Tiny House Village Network, Global EcoVillage Network, Intentional Communities, Far Beyond the Stars Blog, Rowdy Kittens, The Tiny Life, Tiny Simplicity