In Australia, home ownership has been put on a pedestal as a marker of success yet there are many people who are looking for a different way to feel settled and successful. We believe that life in a community of like-minded people can offer joy, connection and a feeling of freedom.
We are part of the land and cannot exist without it. We owe our very existence to dirt, rain, healthy waterways, bees and other animals and plants. Many first nations people understand that we don't and can't 'own' the land. At most, humans can be custodians of the land. Many faith traditions espouse this. Pagans say; 'look after your mother and your mother will look after you'. Christians affirm that we all come from the earth and we shall eventually return to it; 'ashes to ashes, dust to dust'.
Many natural resource companies have sought to make money off exploiting the resources under the earth and yet, humans can't eat coal and can't drink gas. The so-called 'ownership' of land has not helped this situation. As I write, the Darling River has just had a million fish die because of exploitation of water through irresponsible irrigation. Put another way, a million fish have died because of a destructive attitude of entitlement. "It's my land and I'll do what I want with it," is the sentiment.
There is a growing movement of people who are committed to walking lightly on the earth and living in harmony with the natural world. Many people want to enjoy the benefits of living in small communities. Embracing collective ownership can help set these communities on a positive path of self-determination.
Land as a commodity has created 'wealthy areas' and 'poor areas'. The (arguably) best places in the city are worth more, while the poor are relegated to the margins. Many lively hinterland towns with soul have now become rich 'ranch' suburbs and are now driving people without large incomes out of town as we have seen time and time again in the process of gentrification. Sociologists agree that class stratification has not been a good thing for us humans. It's actually healthy for the rich and poor to live in close proximity.
Common Issues with Property Ownership
Intentional communities and eco villages that sell plots of land for individual ownership can degenerate into a land grab situation. Land ownership creates invisible fences despite the lack of physical fences. People who live on properties that are owned by someone else, inherently have a power imbalance of landlord and renter. Without a strong sense of self-determination, communities will struggle to be anything but an eco-neighbourhood.
In our current paradigm, some person or some entity must own the land even if that entity is a government or a local council. Australia doesn't have a culture of 'the commons'. Eco Villages Australia has a framework and plan that will see more and more land returned to the commons. Our model of collective ownership would allow the non-profit organisation to purchase the land to be held in perpetuity for affordable housing and ecological regeneration. In this way, everyone will own the land while at the same time no-one will own the land. In the unlikely case that land and property are sold, loans would be re-payed to financial contributors and no individuals would benefit financially from any capital gain.
Collective ownership takes land out of a property market that feeds on speculation and profit.
Not Stuck and Not Fearful
Collective ownership is, in our society, radical. When all the loans are paid back to the financial contributors, eco village residents will no longer need to pay market-rate rents back to the non-profit company. Eco village members can move between villages easily rather than being tied to one property as home owners are. Residents of the eco village won't need to worry about whether or not their lease is renewed as they themselves are the 'landlords' and will get to determine, through participatory decision-making, what happens on the property.
Do you have a Property?
This month we have met with property owners who can see the benefits of collective ownership. If you have property and are interested in collective ownership, contact us to discuss the possibilities. We are interested in properties that are in cities, regional areas and even more remote, rural areas.
After much research and advice from lawyers who specialise in intentional communities, Eco Villages Australia have found that a non-profit company (limited by guarantee), is the best way to hold land in collective ownership. We hope that one day, we will be custodians for many properties all over Australia, not out of ego, but in the interests of people, animals and the environment.
Want to be a resident? Fill out an expression of interest here.