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Let's talk about ownership structure for an ecovillage

 
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    I want to be part of a permaculture community.  I think many of us here on permies would like to do that as well, but I don't think most of the people here really understand the legal requirements for sharing land with others.  What I'm seeing on here appears to be people who have already bought land, and now they want to have others come and live on it.  Ok, does that mean they're looking for renters or just guests?  Personally, I don't want to build my house and start an organic small farm on land where I can't have any ownership rights.  I would think that shared ownership of the community property would make the most sense.  
    The way shared ownership works is that if you want to have shared ownership of a property, you have to create it when you first buy the land.  You can't divide up ownership after you already bought the land unless you apply to create a subdivision, which means putting in roads, water utility lines, and sewage systems.
    A tenancy-in-common deed would be a way to allow each person to own whatever % of the land they wish to own, and still have the right to sell or rent their share of the property if they wish to leave.
    Instead of subdividing the land into lots with a subdivision plat, a contract called a joint ownership agreement could define property boundaries as well as easements for roads.
     I don't think it would work out to all depend on each other to pay off a jointly-held mortgage, if a mortgagor would even allow that many people on the contract.  Instead, people would either have to come up with cash or get a personal loan that would provide them with a lump sum of cash.  They might also be able to get a mortgage in their own name to purchase their share only.
    The tenancy-in-common contract would also create the rules for paying the property taxes, since the county would hold each one of us 100% legally responsible for 100% of the entire property's tax bill.  We probably would want to have the lawyer create an escrow account that had people paying their property taxes into it in advance.  Anyone who didn't pay their share in advance could have action taken against them by the other tenants  before the tax bill came due.  
 
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I would be very interested if land for having community is using a land trust. But to get to that, or without having that, land used belongs to someone, or to some party. If it can become community property that would be better for this. A single owner or one family owning the land chooses in everything, including what is expected of each and all who would be permitted as a community there, whether as guests, who are too temporary to be making up a community, or renters, who have to work somewhere else for income to pay, or workers there, which involves work to pay for being there, and might mean for produce or products to sell. What I see desirable and sustainable is communities of people such as there have always been, without civilization, which humans have had a very long time. Within these there was what would be ideal for us, all within the community belonged in it, and worked together for the needs of their community. This would need to be sharing in work for growing needed food and materials, and not taking much still from anywhere else if it is being really sustainable. What is needed among those in a community is what they have agreement about. Those who join to be a community now need to reach such agreement, but there is still need for such communities.

I will be happy for responses for communication, through messages here, or by email, or through an agreed on medium.
 
                          
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You do not need to create a "subdivision" to split land ownership.  A land plot can be broken up at any time in as many pieces as desired (considering local laws regarding the smallest parcel that can be made), it just needs to get re-surveyed

A legal framework like a trust might work for some, but I venture to guess most wanting to live in a communal plot would rather not have to enter into a bunch of legal agreements.

The best way I can come up with is only move to a place where you trust the owner and rules are agreeable.

I don't have a workable design on how this could work without a hitch.  But currently thinking along the lines of the owner getting insurance for liability and a sort of donation fundraiser type thing where people can donate to help pay property taxes and insurance.
 
Jennifer Davis
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If a person was to build a house and a permaculture-growing operation on a piece of land, they would be making a very big investment of time and money.  I don't care if it's a tiny home or yurt or whatever, it's still not free and it doesn't just take a couple days' labor to build.  If they don't own the land, they're just going to have to leave it behind when they move.  Or if they die, their kids cannot inherit it.  That's why ownership is needed, so the person or their kids can sell it one day and get some money out of it that they can use to fund their next house.
 
Jennifer Davis
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BTW a land trust is still really the same thing as having one person own the whole property.  That person controls the trust.  The trust is revokable.  They might one day decide to revoke the trust and tell you you couldn't live there anymore.  That person also can sell the property whenever they wish.  Or if they die, their kids could sell it.  The owner doesn't have to be malicious or untrustworthy for you to lose your house.  A creditor might come along who could force the owner to sell the property to pay off a debt.  They could force him to revoke the trust at that time, too.
 
pollinator
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I've thought long and hard on this, as it seems to be the number one killer of permie communities trying to start up?

In my own case, with 40 acres in southern colorado, and stupid county zoning laws that only allow up to 3 families on a property, and subdivision laws that won't allow the 40 to be further subdivided (western state w/ weird water rights), our path forward is very narrow.

I think in my case it will be to turn the land over to a trust, which owns it, pays taxes, etc., and then I become one of the families on it; there will be room for only two other families (with plenty of fudging of the defined family on paper, to support generations).

We each get 5 acres to do our own thing on (possibly all one family can really manage well?), and have shared responsibilities for the remaining common acreage, per the agreement (handbook) between each family and the trust.

What comes after (my puny efforts), and this could be mind-boggling, is a *meta-community* ...
 
Jennifer Davis
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(Jt Lamb) Sounds like where you live, you wouldn't have been able to have a tenancy-in-common with more than three families on the deed anyway.
 
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I totally agree with you Jennifer.  Part of being in a community is being responsible for yourself.  It is a big step to build your own living structure on the land. It signifies roots and roots signify family.  You need to own that piece of land where you build your structure so you can write a will for what will happen to it when you pass on.  
 
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This issue is actually fundamental to human existence, that of community framework. The problem was introduced 1700 years ago when Constantine the Great started laying claim to all of the land, and forcing indigenous tribes to pay him property taxes. They could no longer simply trade with each other. They had to go out and earn currency with which to pay taxes. Taxes are a cancer to community. But I digress.

The point is that like it or not we are all subjects to the government enforced framework in which we live - there is no avoiding it for now - don't pay taxes, or violate county, state, or federal laws or ordinances, and you will have to pay, or lose your land. So my question is, instead of trying to fit a square plug into a round hole, why not simply get in tune with the reality in which we find ourselves, and master it?

Instead of planning a community within a community, why not simply identify an existing county with few residents, then organize a large group of people to purchase their own properties in that county. Then you can put like-minded people into all of the county government positions, and change the actual laws to be in accordance with how you all want to live. You could lower property taxes, and establish public lands for shared farming. Everything could be legally voted on, the framework is already in place. The primary flaw in the system is that there are too many people with too many varied agendas in the average county, and even at the county level, the sort of people drawn to public office tend to be self-serving. But a smaller county packed with people who have the same agenda could be amazing. It would take a lot of planning, but that's the case with any project.

I'm wondering why nobody has done this.

Step1: Devise a detailed plan which would be something along the lines of the following...
Step2: Identify a U.S. county in a favorable state with low population and/or many residents already on board.
Step3: People on board with the plan begin buying property/moving to the county.
Step4: Continue to advertise the plan, and post progress, in order to draw more like-minded people to the county.
Step5: Everyone on board with the plan should get as involved as possible in local government to get as many existing residents on board as possible while continuing to attract like-minded outsiders to the county.
Step6: Eventually, as more county government positions are filled by like-minded people, they can establish and encourage farmers markets, organic-friendly regulations, reduce taxes and redirect tax revenues toward actual community projects.
 
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Jennifer you have pried the lid off the can of worms.
Yes, most people want to own the land where they will build their homes. For an Intentional Community the problem with this is, what if that owner gets hit by the beer truck? If they had a will, will the new owner want to participate in the community? Or maybe the owners have a lifestyle change that is not conducive to the community vision, what then?
My line if thinking is that the community would become a legal entity like a LLC. That LLC would hold deed to the land and members of the community would purchase shares to have right to a plot. At the root not much unlike owning a townhouse.
I have been observing that real estate law varies greatly from state to state.  Therefore, no single answer is correct for all scenarios.
It is always stimulating to read other's thoughts and ideas.
Thank you all for sharing.
 
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Brian Briggs wrote:Jennifer you have pried the lid off the can of worms.
Yes, most people want to own the land where they will build their homes. For an Intentional Community the problem with this is, what if that owner gets hit by the beer truck? If they had a will, will the new owner want to participate in the community? Or maybe the owners have a lifestyle change that is not conducive to the community vision, what then?
My line if thinking is that the community would become a legal entity like a LLC. That LLC would hold deed to the land and members of the community would purchase shares to have right to a plot. At the root not much unlike owning a townhouse.
I have been observing that real estate law varies greatly from state to state.  Therefore, no single answer is correct for all scenarios.
It is always stimulating to read other's thoughts and ideas.
Thank you all for sharing.



This is like a permies version of Mencius Moldbug's "Joint-Stock Republic."

Considering how modern government is set up to benefit corporations, the LLC path may be the ideal one. Community members of the "company town" become "employees" whose housing costs can be written off, for example.
 
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The Foundation for Intentional Community ic.org just started an excellent podcast called Inside Community. There is a great episode about legal frame works and another about buying land. Both by very experienced communitarians and people in the respective industries. I have listened to both episodes again and have taken copious notes because they have been so helpful. Please listen to them. I feel so much more knowledgable about this to actually seriously consider it (along with the book Creating a Life Together by Diana Leafe Christian, of course).
 
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