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Plot for earthbag home, worried about permit (Europe)

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Hello there,

My boyfriend and I are a young couple in a long-distance relationship, as he lives in Italy and I'm from the Netherlands (we still live in our parental homes). We're looking forward to living together, but for now that comes down to finding a WAY to live together.

A little irrelevant, and for now merely hypothetical, but still important background information to share: I have little perspective on a stable future with a regular job, because I have no degree after high school (there's a reason for this, but endless story). In fact, I can apply only for jobs such as in a restaurant, coffeehouse or shop, and with that income I could maybe live in a humble apartment... There isn't really more out there for me.
Currently, I also work online and am setting up my own business, but this is quite challenging and doesn't allow me to count on a regular income. Which means I can forget about renting an apartment, let alone buying a home (essentially everything the bank comes into the picture with). In other words, I would need an (uneducated) job with a paycheck. But that's not where it ends. Even more complicated is that either my boyfriend or I have to emigrate to live together, but it will be hard or impossible (especially in the short term) to find a job in each other's country (language is the main issue, but in my own case also low education). One of us (the one who stays in their own country) being responsible for all the money and payments is not what we want, not to mention its unlikely achievability.

We've been thinking and have done research about options for alternative living. Although the financial aspect plays a major role, this idea isn't merely based on reducing costs. I've always missed a closer connection to nature in my life and would love to live in and experience the countryside, or at least somewhere greener than an urban area. Last but not least, permaculture would give me the chance to reciprocate my environmental concerns. I don't want to live in the countryside only to satisfy my 'visual greed'; I'm actually willing to work and live in harmony with nature. I know it's very different from the life I and my boyfriend have experienced so far, and that's also why I think it's important to take small steps and not immediately take the plunge, so we can see how it goes for us...
We've actually discovered a plethora of options for alternative living - from tiny houses to yurts - which is in principle off-grid (in our understanding). At this point, most ideal to us seems living in an earthbag house.

Now here comes the dread. One of the reasons we would want to live in an earthbag house is because we're against the modern economy, consumerism, unsustainable practices, etc. We're both people that would really want to live and work alternatively. We have our very own thoughts about it and I'm quite adamant that there must be a way to make this work.
However, we have no clue how to find a plot for our earthbag house, if we really decide to do it. The criterion is NO MORTGAGE, otherwise this plan wouldn't make much sense to us. How is this going to work? Is it viable in Europe (anywhere), do you know about any regions? I mean, we would obviously need some sort of planning permission. Not a chance, but certainty. If such plot is going to cost about $50,000 (converted to USD), well, we don't have that... I've also seen plots (in Europe, like Wales) that are $3,000 to $10,000. This would be a lot more realistic and eventually possible! However, do such plots have the potential to be sold with planning permission for an earthbag house? What are we supposed to count on? We would really like to hear from anyone who can tell us something about our chances in Europe. At this point, I already know that we won't have any chance in the Netherlands, my home country. The building codes here are too restrictive, which also makes sense when a country is so densely populated and there's not much countryside to speak of. My boyfriend's home country, Italy, might be a better bet. We also consider moving elsewhere, like the UK. I'm just upset that bureaucracy seems to destroy ANY idea we have. How sad is that if you're just trying to do what actually matters to our planet... All the information we find about building and permission give no clues, it's all vague and ambiguous. Is there anything more to know than "It depends"?
By the way, if it's not possible in any way, we don't necessarily have to own the land ourselves. We just need a piece of land with the guarantee that we can build and live there.

I was also wondering whether there are any European municipalities that exist merely of ecohouses (such as earthbag houses)? An ecovillage where you can build your own home, for example. This would also protect us from (social) isolation (not that we're not used to it, but still a good thing).
In addition to that, I think it might be wise to prepare and follow a course or workshop about earthbag construction (and permaculture), or even attend a volunteer project if that's possible without any relevant experience. But these concepts are virtually unheard of and unpracticed in the Netherlands. I literally don't know where to start...

I'm looking forward to responses - thank you very much, as it's really appreciated.
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First I know nothing about European alternatively coded areas. Although i have seen many sustainable buildings I'm across Europe, in person and online. I'd suggest searching the internet through multiple countries search engines. Code free areas and masonry/rammed earth/adobe codes could apply to eb. pay attention to minimum square footages. But here's my take on your post:
First, there are lots of good careers in the trades, skilled labor positions, often times self employed, wherein you can apprentice or start at entry level and be trained up how your employer wants you to be: electrician, surveyor, tile setter, chimney sweep--all positions that transfer to the rural areas. Explore these paths.
Second, find an area that you think that you like, learn a trade through an employer, learning a valuable asset skill and saving money. Not rushing into the cheapest land, and then finding yourself broke without momentum. By the time you have saved up, you'll be in a much different mental place.
Third, depending on the level of finish, building your home mortgage free is quite the commitment. It'll likely take 2-3 times the money and time you estimate, and tear apart all but the tightest (or comfortably funded) relationships.
Maybe explore interesting internships that you might fancy: cheese maker, bee keeper,. Or a short class to certification like welding, etc. maybe Contact those people with your info, desire to apprentice a skill and make a modest wage while living on site.
Forth, make a long list of question and criteria about what you want in a home, place, career, life, etc. keep looking that over.
Fifth, As far as building methods, don't commit to any one method brute land yourself somewhere; each have their own appropriateness depending on environment and what's locally available.
Sorry that i couldn't help with European coded areas, but hopefully this gives you something to ponder.
Happy trails!
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Hi there,

There was a lot of useful information in the above post, thank you!

I am in a similar boat to you in that I chose to to travel and live on the road for numerous years instead of working towards a career. Thus I am working low paid jobs and aiming to save up enough cash to buy land and build a home/food forest, I also am thinking that a majority earthbag build, infused with many other techniques will be my best option.

Having lived in many Latin america countries, I will end up in that part of the world because not only do I love it, but also its tropical,land is cheap and building regulations are way more relaxed and even non existing in some parts.

I briefly looked at cheap options in Europe and Portugal seemed like the best bet for me in terms of climate and value. Here is an example. http://www.pureportugal.co.uk/listman/listings/l0749.html

They say "Ideal for a low impact home, like a yurt, tent, caravan or mobile home" maybe this is because the land only has permission for temporary structures.

Good luck
Mother Tree
Posts: 11600
Location: Portugal
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jason mcanuff wrote:
They say "Ideal for a low impact home, like a yurt, tent, caravan or mobile home" maybe this is because the land only has permission for temporary structures.

"Temporary" has a specific meaning in Portugal, and it relates to the materials used. Stone, brick and concrete are 'permanent'. Strawbale, wood and earth-bag are 'temporary'.
Posts: 4328
Location: Anjou ,France
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As someone who played the game got a degree I can tell you its mostly worth zero . Your post is so elequent as to constitute its own qualification AND its not in your mother tounge . If fact you write better english than me ....... than I . ( I should have said )
This is my little Blog thingy .https://permies.com/t/31583/projects/Permie-Pennies-France
I live in France and am unemployed I have rented a house in the country . I dont expect to live here forever but am content that a bit of this earth is being cleaned and well used and I grow as much as my own stuff as possible . I am in money terms poor but rich in what I do My landlord is a happy chap as he sees the land being used and his house watched . He charges some rent but that is covered by the dole here in France . My french is frankly abismal even worse than my english but a smile and good will are universal .
In parts of France ITALY Spain Portugal Greece the population is on the move as a whole northwards and westwards to the UK, Germany ,Holland plus the big citys . May I suggest what is important are not building codes but the treaty of Rome . Where in Italy does your BF live ? If its anywhere away from the big citys then why dont you move there ? English is spoken in many places the countryside is crying out for people who will work hard. Look for a not so popular areas not umbria tourist traps for instance . All you need is somewhere to stay maybe in exchange for some work ( farm stuff teaching english chidren minding etc etc be flexible ) an internet connection and there you go . You seem an out going person as evidenced by your post why dont you leave your past behind and move into the future


Rosa Parker
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To start with, sorry for my late reply. I've read your replies and I want to thank everyone for their input! This is really valuable for us as newbies.

The concept of living on some land in exchange for work is what seems to be the most realistic, if we want to take action. It's something we're both very willing to do.

We now realise the role of social connections, and the importance of having them. Especially when speaking of a reality such as a barter lifestyle (i.e. getting land for work). A network is an essential starting point - the more local, the more favourable, I suppose. Unfortunately, this is really hard in the crowded Netherlands, but last week I've found an interesting association in Italy (www.ufficiodiscollocamento.it). I'm still exploring their website, because my Italian is not very fluent yet.

Another thing my partner and I have discussed is ecovillages. Initially, that idea was very appealing, but the privacy and structure of a household together is simply too precious to us. We're surprised that people in an ecovillage live together so intimately - a more appropriate term would be eco-commune. We thought that people living in ecovillages only cooperate for work... But instead, it seems that people don't even have their own house there.

Also, we won't dive blindly into earthbag construction; thank you for reminding us of the environmental dependence.
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Hi Rosa Bosma,

It's been a while since you've posted the above. Have you been able to find a solution yet?
If you and your boyfriend are still looking for a sensible alternative to the rat race, it may be a good idea to have a chat. To cut a long story short; I'm currently circling Castelo Branco, Portugal, in order to find a place to start living as self sustained as possible. I'm also from The Netherlands and my partner in crime is from Belgium. Neither of us are commune types either, but I'm very interested in cooperating with like-minded people in this endeavor. My ideal is some kind of co-op relationship.
As far as I can tell, there's no legal way to do what we want to do in Europe, without bringing a shipload of money. One way or another, you'll need a habitation license, building permit, architect, etc. All obligations are concocted with way to "high" standards of living in mind for yours truly. Prosperity fascism if you ask me. Perhaps we need to take our chances living in a hut of some sort on rustic land. In Portugal this is at least legal if it's not permanent. I have no clue how this is defined and what fine you can expect if you get caught. How does this play out in reality anyway? Is there a hut police patrolling the campo? How can you tell if somebody is just camping on his own land or living there permanently?
Anyway, I'll PM you my contact info. Feel free to get in touch. Good luck in your search for modest living!
eat bricks! HA! And here's another one! And a tiny ad!
Intrinsic: An Agriculture of Altered Chaos
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