How to live in a community

This article sets out a vision for a potential intentional community project. The aims of the project are fostering peace with God, ourselves and nature. It builds on the foundations that others have laid.

How to live in a community
Photo by Hillary Ungson on Unsplash

Let me start by saying that I do not yet live in a community, but have aspirations to start a community. This post will include my thoughts and research on the topic and form the basis of my business plan.

Community is something that we all aspire to live in, but somehow fail to achieve. This can be seen in numerous statistics, which may not be attributed to a failure of the community, but I very much see a connection.

  • Increase in divorce and broken homes
  • Increasing social care bills
  • Increasing mental health problems
  • Increasing suicide rates

Community means:

A community is a social unit with commonality such as norms, religion, values, customs, or identity. Communities may share a sense of place situated in a given geographical area or in virtual space through communication platforms.

--- Wikipedia

Norms, religion and values, shared by a group of people give you an identity. You have a sense of belonging and if you get in trouble the community will help. It is like a family but bigger.

My community will be called Salem, or perhaps The Salem Project.

Community Vision

The community needs a vision, a raison d'etre, that way, when one thinks about joining the community, they can more easily understand what this community is about and whether it is a good fit for them.

  • Peace with God
  • Peace with ourselves
  • Peace with nature

This is the vision statement for my community. The name is The Salem Project. Salem means peace and comes from Arabic, Aramaic or Hebrew. Shalom is more commonly associated with Hebrew and is the modern Hebrew word for peace. I feel that Salem is more inclusive of the diverse cultures that would be invited to the community.

Salem is also the name of Jerusalem, the holiest city in Judaism and Christianity, and the third holiest in Islam. Salem is to be a community, living together in a village, that brings peace to its inhabitants and those around. Demonstrating those of diverse backgrounds can live together in peace, in contrast to modern-day Jerusalem.

Peace with God means that opportunity is to be provided for residents to find and communicate with God. This could be through a variety of means such as being closer to nature, being further away from consumerism and city noises, being encouraged to participate in socially-minded community events.

Peace with ourselves means not just finding our own inner peace but also finding harmony with our neighbours. Living and working in close cooperation with others may bring up feelings incompatible with peace and harmony, but by working together more peace can be achieved.

Peace with nature means being considerate of our natural surroundings. Making a positive contribution in terms of caring for plants, trees and animals, and minimizing our own contribution to the destruction of nature.

Location

Location is vital to the success of each project village. As best as possible we will try to start each project on a positive basis with the planning authorities. We do not assume that planning permission will be granted but will work with authorities to address their concerns and as far as is possible will do this in advance of any property purchase.

Farms present an opportunity for this project. Small farms have been consolidated into larger farms over the last decades. Generational farming techniques have been replaced with technology, mass machinery and cheap imported labour.

Farming businesses in Europe rely on government subsidies. Even then they often fail to break even. Trendy produce can fetch good prices and can be grown at home while staples get imported from abroad. Farming has lost touch with nature, farms must either embrace big business or go bust.

The opportunity is that farms are being sold as the next generation no longer wishes to pursue this business. Farms already have buildings with utility connections. Farms come with land that is readily available for farming purposes.

Use of the land for additional dwellings will need to be worked out with the local authorities.

Woodland is desirable because it allows access to wood for heating, cooking and building, as well as improving the natural beauty of the area and consuming carbon dioxide.

A watercourse is desirable for use in farming, hydroelectric projects, fishing, playing and washing where allowable by local regulations.

We could consider small, medium and large villages. In the first instance we'd look for a medium-sized village of about 25 properties. This should be able to support all the shared infrastructure mentioned below.

If each property were to lease 200 sqm and there are 25 properties that would require 5000sqm. Assume an additional 5000sqm farmland and 5000sqm woodland. We'd be looking at a minimum size of 15000 sqm or 1.5ha. A maximum size may also need to be considered. If that land is not to be developed into a village then the cost of that unproductive land will need to be factored in to the cost per property.

Sharing

The community will practice sharing buildings, spaces and equipment. This brings with it financial benefits for the members as well as being eco-friendly.

  • When people share then multiple items are not required.
  • When people share, items and spaces are used more fully and efficiently.
  • When people share, better quality, longer life, repairable and locally produced items purchased

If members are moving to the community and have possessions that they will no longer need then they are encouraged to consider donating them to the foundation.

In general books and toys shall be made available in the communal spaces for shared use, but some items may be of special significance and these can be kept for your private use.

Books can be taken for private consumption for a period of time but are to be returned upon completion.

Tools and equipment for repairs and improvements will be available and should generally not be retained overnight, but be returned to the proper place.

Items for shared use are owned by the foundation. Any item donated for shared use is considered to be donated to the foundation and cannot subsequently become the private property of another without written agreement by the foundation.

Items that community members would like to be made available for shared use, new purchases, can be requested through the village management. The foundation will maintain a prioritized list and will endeavour to meet the needs of members where possible, according to budget.

Donating is similar to sharing but is not sharing. It is giving full ownership of an item that you previously owned exclusively for the exclusive use of another. This is encouraged also and applies particularly to items of clothing and maybe some books or toys.

The foundation will forge relationships with other organizations both within the local neighbourhood and further afield. Where items can no longer be used by the foundation then it will seek to donate them to these causes, or if possible, sell them for community benefit.

Sharing Targets

What can be achieved by each village is dependent on the funds available to the village and the availability of buildings purchased with the land. The targets over the lifetime of the village shall be as follows:

  • Internet
  • Laundry room (possibly with coin-operated machines)
  • Workshop (including power tools and hand tools)
  • Gym (equipment provided as budget allows)
  • Office space
  • Social room (including tables, chairs, TV/projector, stereo, books and games)
  • Storeroom (including freezer space, as required)
  • Kitchen (not for everyday use but maybe including a coffee machine)
  • Playroom with toys and games
  • Outdoor playground
  • Outdoor water play and/or swimming pool
  • Greenhouses
  • Farming equipment
  • Farmland (probably made available free of charge for personal use)
  • Fruit trees and bushes
  • Shared vehicles (e.g. minibus, small car, van, quad)
  • Bicycles (private bicycles recommended for regular use)
  • Games room (table tennis, table football, darts, badminton, as space and budget allows)

Income

Each resident is responsible for their own income. They are expected to take jobs in the local community or to work remotely.

They may work from their own cabins or make use of shared office facilities if available. Long commutes are not encouraged, and where possible pedal or electric bikes should be used in preference to large motor vehicles.

We do not require disclosure of income or savings from residents, simply a commitment to meet the monthly payments and to agree to our shared values. The income of each village will be derived from the plot leases, shared facility subscriptions and guest visitors.

The foundation will own the land and initial buildings, including guest cabins, through business loans or mortgages. It is therefore important to ensure that the property is appropriately priced so as to be affordable for the foundation.

A manager and other staff may be assigned to each village as appropriate. Where appropriate they will be recruited from existing or potential residents.

Cashflow

The price for the land should be in the region of 10-20 euro per square metre. The price for the buildings should be no more than 1000 euro per square metre.

It is expected that the maximum affordable property including land and buildings would be €1mln. This would be financed through business loans or a commercial mortgage as appropriate. If acceptable to the bank and tax office, then during the setup phase of the project, all funding will come from the full-time employment of the founder.

As the project develops then the founder will only continue to work at his leisure and the project will become self-sustaining.

The price of the lots will need to be adjusted according to the size of the lot, the shared facilities available and a regional price factor. I expect the costs for residents to be in the region of:

  • 200€ per month for ground rent,
  • 100€ per month for all shared facilities
  • 100€ per month for public utilities (electricity, gas, Internet, rubbish, sewerage and water)
  • 200€ per month for financing a trailer

The only thing not included then is:

  • your food
  • personal subscriptions like mobile phones and Netflix
  • personal insurances
  • personal vehicles

Foundation Funds

The foundation will run a conservative budget, spending within its means and not taking on debt except where necessary to further the foundation's aims in another location.

Each separate property (land) is to be run within its own budget, only the capital expense of land purchase and renovation and, where desirable, guest lodgings will come from general funds.

The decision of what to do with foundation funds will be made by the board of directors of the foundation.

Foundation funds will be managed transparently.

The foundation may invest in stocks and other assets that they deem appropriate and legal in order to maintain the foundation funds.

Employees of the foundation are not volunteers and will be paid an appropriate amount in keeping with local norms.

The descendants of the foundation's founder are legally able to derive an income from the foundation but will do so at the discretion of the board of directors and in keeping with available income and funds so as to continue furthering the aims of the foundation.

Other Examples of Community

  • The Zeitgeist Movement is an activist movement and an online community rather than a location-based community. The Salem Project will not be an activist movement although we may share some common philosophies with this movement.
  • Schloss Templehof
  • The Venus Project
  • Bruderhof is an international Christian movement where members live out their religious convictions in an intentional community across 5 continents and 29 locations.
  • Lee Abbey is a Christian community and family holiday and retreat centre in Devon, UK.
  • Birchwood Community is an intentional cohousing community in the UK that operates as a cooperative where the property is equally owned by all members.
  • Diggers and Dreamers is a book and website with information and links to other community projects.
  • Kommune Niederkaufungen is one of the largest intentional communities in Germany. They mostly work at the commune and earn income through farming and childcare. All income is shared with the community.
  • Tiny House Village in Mehlmeisel, Germany, claim to be Germany's first tiny house village. They have provided inspiration to this particular project and what I envision with the Salem Project is a mixture between their village concept and the community of the Schloss Templehof.
  • Kibbutzim and Moshavim are Israeli communities with a focus on collective farming. The Kibbutz residents all live and work together whilst the Moshav residents tend to their own farms and have their own residences. They pay a tax to access the shared facilities of the community.

Community Rules

Some rules will be required to help with harmonious living and these will be in keeping with the community vision.

This is a live document and these rules will grow as necessary. Ultimately they will be moved to their own location with a link being placed here instead. This is just to get things started.

  1. Private Housing
    1.1 You are responsible for the care and maintenance of your own private dwelling
    1.2 You are to keep the entire privately leased area in a good state of care
    1.3 Use of concrete on leased land is restricted except by written permission from the foundation. Building foundations are best done with piles.

  2. Behaviour
    2.1 You are to behave respectfully toward your neighbours, either permanent residents or guests
    2.2 Keep cus words and foul language to your own residence
    2.3 Private parties are allowed in your leased area but keep the noise down
    2.4 Illegal behaviour will be dealt with through the appropriate means

  3. Common spaces and equipment
    3.1 Use of the common spaces and equipment is a privilege, not a right. These are owned by the foundation and are to be looked after and treated as you would your own property.
    3.2 Common spaces are made for gathering, do not participate in behaviour that makes others uncomfortable in those spaces.
    3.3 Common spaces can be used for private gatherings but not at the exclusion of other residents and guests

  4. Children
    4.1 Please respect the wishes of the parents with regards to your behaviour towards the children.
    4.2 This is a family community, please exercise tolerance and patience towards the children.
    4.3 Please interrupt the children if you see them participating in unsafe activities

  5. Pets and animals
    5.1 You are welcome to bring your own pets but they will be your responsibility
    5.2 If your pet poses a danger to anyone then they are no longer welcome
    5.3 This community may start to raise animals, anticipate some natural sounds
    5.4 We are not a vegan community, we will eat animals and the produce of animals. Please respect the preferences of your neighbours

  6. Religion
    6.1 The foundation is run by Christians and some of the members are Christians, please respect their beliefs.
    6.2 Please respect the beliefs of those of other faiths. Polite conversation on religious topics is encouraged, but keep it polite.
    6.3 We will not exclude members on the basis of faith or religion.