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individual 'shares' of communal land? Discussion

Mike Smithe

Joined: Mar 01, 2012
Posts: 5
So, if someone has enough $ to purchase one single large parcel of land, and an intentional community then forms there, have any existing communities come up with any working systems for how individual members of the community can acquire/achieve/purchase 'land security' for themselves inside of this parcel, without actually chopping up the land's deed?

Many intentional community residents are pretty transient, and even many of the long-term residents are merely 'renters' that have no actual $-equity down the road if/when they decide to leave. But what if there are folks who want to have something to show for their money, over time, so that it's not just evaporating away in rent...?

I envision future communities needing to deal with this issue in a formal or semi-formal kind of way (since so much money would be involved), as more and more 'mainstream' sensibilities enter into the equation: people who want to share land and live in community, but also want 'Land Security' like they get if they buy their own property/house (where if they decide to move they have some degree of ownership to sell off and apply to their future).

I know there are some communities designed around individual plots of land, all next to one another, but that scenario isn't going to work in many situations, because of zoning issues and/or the expense of legally/officially chopping up a parcel.

So what kind of alternatives for 'ownership' have been designed? (Any links to relevant articles would also be appreciated.)

John Polk

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6883
Location: Currently in Seattle. Probably moving 1 hour north by end of the year.
I can see the problems. After x many years of hard work, it would seem unfair to force somebody to just walk away.
On the other hand if he could sell it, what happens if the buyer comes in with barrels of Round Up?

Perhaps, put the entire parcel into a "Preserve". Give long term leases on plots. The person leaving could sell his 'improvements', but not the land itself.

It would take a good lawyer to draw up the agreement(s).

Mike Smithe

Joined: Mar 01, 2012
Posts: 5
That's exactly the issue. And I imagine there must be a few communities out there that have come up with creative ways to deal with it. Seems like some kind of 'share' system (like stocks, maybe) in a co-op business model might work...with a board/council that can veto transactions (so as to keep out parties who have the money to buy in but don't offer what the community is looking for in co-residents)?
Fred Morgan

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 977
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
And alternate idea perhaps. Many people make the mistake of considering their home an investment. It isn't, because you have to live somewhere. It would be better to go ahead and be part of a community, and then invest the money you save into something else. Let the money grow, and then if you need to leave, you have cash, not a investment that would be very difficult to liquidate most likely.

Unless you find just the perfect buyer, I wonder how much of an investment into a permaculture system you would ever get back? From what I can see, most of those who believe in permaculture aren't rolling in dough (of the green kind) and so are more likely to want to buy where they will build their own, instead of a productive one.

Sustainable Plantations and Agroforestry in Costa Rica
Brad Davies

Joined: Sep 22, 2011
Posts: 213
Location: Clarkston, MI
Jack Spirko had Natalie Bogwalker on his show yesterday and she spoke a little about a situation like this. What her group did was pool their resources and buy a large parcel, then during closing they subdivided it up amongst the individual parties. This seemed like a pretty good idea in my opinion. They get the benefit of cheaper land through combined purchasing power, get to choose who will be part of their community, and also get the legal protection as individual property owners. I would imagine you could set this up anyway you want.

Say you have 5 people and buy 50 acres.
You could divide it as 10 acres per person.
You could divide it by how much each acre costs and each person contributed.
You could give each person a plot 1-5 acres then reserve the rest as a community park or preserve.
You could come up with a million options along these lines.

It seems like a good in between/transition between individual property and full on community sharing everything, in my sometimes humble opinion.

SE, MI, Zone 5b "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
~Thomas Edison
Tyler Ludens

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5729
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
Long-term leases might be a solution. When my folks "bought" their lake property, they actually signed a 99 year lease. Or instead one could impose deed restrictions on land which is actually sold. For instance my land is deed-restricted against feed lots and (weirdly) raising pigs, among a few other things.

Idle dreamer

janette cormier

Joined: Aug 18, 2011
Posts: 17
as a co-operative (business or housing), as tenants-in-common on the deed, or, if you are able to subdivide a parcel (which can be a difficult zoning endeavor depending on where you are) you could "sell" individual lots off a larger parcel. these are the methods i am familiar with for ownership. there are other ways to do it where you no longer own the land individually (ie: a land trust)

acupuncture and herbal medicine
Adam Mohammed

Joined: Apr 01, 2012
Posts: 10
Location: southern Ontario
First time poster here at Permies, though I've lurked here a little bit in the past.

So I co-own land here in southern Ontario. A group of us bought 75 acres (no well, no house, 50acres hay 25 acres 'other' non-arable) in June 2010 with one guy having started the project by having a corporation to be the land-owner, seeking us all out, using our money to buy the land, organizing work-weekends where us co-owners got to know eachother [{not ideal, in some ways, to buy land with people you don't know to begin with}]. We who invested to buy the land had to kick out the founder in early 2011 because we all discovered he did some sketchy things with our money (and trust). Spring 2011 saw all 8 of us besides founder get to know eachother, take the reins of the project. Growing season 2011 saw 2/8 of us living on land in tents (our girlfriends with us part-time), doing an acre and a half of veggies while drooling/dreaming of how we as a group could turn the other 73.5 acre of the property into an lush garden of eden. 2/8 other co-owners came out on weekends. Winter 2011/2012 saw all 8 (sorry, now 12) of us having regular email and skype discussions to figure out our next steps as a group: priorities for on the land; as a collective; the ways in which we needed to get organized before opening the project up to more people (some of us see 30 or so, others see 100+ people co-owning the 75 acres, in years ahead).

Anyways so what we are working with now is a corporate co-ownership model: people have shares based on their level of investment - the land is currently all communal (well, "corporate"). We have all agreed that any investment beyond $10,000 does not lead to more voting power - and even up to that ceiling, $=votes only matters if what's up for debate is so contentious that consensus-minus-1 doesn't work. We have also agreed in principle that $10,000 investment (or promise to invest that much over X years) = "rights to build a permanent structure on land, live there year round." - - So we have worked out how to formally co-own land - -

We have alot to figure out though.

Housing: in this neck of the woods, we can only have two "houses" on the property, although, some people could live in yurts, trailers, "greenhouses" and "barns" and "garages" (notice the " ") or cabin with a footprint under 100'sq [doesn't need a building permit for that size, and, I think lofts don't count]- - not sure yet how it would work to do 100'sq at a time, thus, build a home one room at a time. We could also do as one ecovillage here in Ontario did and build one giant house with separate units - - though for most of us that wouldn't be ideal.

So yeah we at some point have to sift through red tape, fees, and suffer higher taxes to legally subdivide the land (trying to keep chunks big enough so they can still be zoned as agriculture, for lower taxes). The next would then be: do we sever while keeping it all within the existent corporation (division A, branch B, etc,), or do we sell this chunk to Bob and Nob, that chunk to Wei and Sanjay, etc., but informally ask that they still open up part of their parcel to communal goats, forest gardens, etc.

If keeping severances communal: Not sure how to work it out, when an individual (or sub-group of us) decides to build a private house on our communal land, if the house will really be communally-owned and just leased (ex. 99yrs) to the person who designed and financed and built it; or if we can lease the land-area to the member, who then builds what is technically a private home.

We have some contention too about the balance between personal and communal land usage and food growing even long before our numbers grow and we sever the land. I feel like we're going to end up with: people having a right to a personal half acre [{this includes people who aren't even $10K investors, but, seasonal tenters}], any more space desired? and it has to be communal and/or and an exception somehow (leased for business purposes, etc).

Personally: I almost want to go the route of saving the $ to pay the fees to legally buy a 2-5-acre chunk of the land and outright OWN it.

Or... some other solution where: I can be part of a community/village and do some communal things, but also have legal private property. I want some of my own space for annuals and perennials, for personal experimentation - but am down with doing some of that communally. Meanwhile I am very agreeable to doing livestock communally. And am highly keen on doing entrepreneurial things as business partnerships. And having, somewhere on the land, a big building where we all converge for meetings, potlucks, and teach workshops to eachother and outsiders.

It sure is a shame that the .Gov has rules which would make it hard/expensive for dozens of people to co-habit a chunk of land like we want to. This issue contributed to me realizing I am not in fact a socialist but rather some kind of libertarian/anarchist.
Mike Smithe

Joined: Mar 01, 2012
Posts: 5
I have been referred to this book for this issue, by a community that has been thriving for years:

I haven't read it yet, so I can't comment on it - but I thought I'd mention it here in case others are interested.

Fred Walter

Joined: May 31, 2011
Posts: 43
Location: Near Beaver Valley, Ontario, Canada
I live in Southwestern Ontario, and it is interesting, the approach you are taking.

Adam Mohammed wrote:I co-own land here in southern Ontario. A group of us bought 75 acres (no well, no house, 50acres hay 25 acres 'other' non-arable) in June 2010 with one guy having started the project by having a corporation

As a service to other people interested doing what you've done, could you make copies of the legal documents/etc required available somewhere? Sanitized of course, with your names/etc removed, to protect your privacy.

cabin with a footprint under 100'sq [doesn't need a building permit for that size, and, I think lofts don't count]- - not sure yet how it would work to do 100'sq at a time, thus, build a home one room at a time

It is the total size of the building that counts, so you cannot build a home, one 100 sq.ft. room at a time, unless the rooms were seperate from each other. Plus you probably have a limit on the number of outbuildings (including 100 sq.ft. sheds) on your property. (Though without a complaint from your neighbours, your municipality might not care.)

So yeah we at some point have to sift through red tape, fees, and suffer higher taxes to legally subdivide the land (trying to keep chunks big enough so they can still be zoned as agriculture, for lower taxes)

Don't count on being able to do this. My municipality only allows for 2 lots to be subdivided off of a 100 acre rural/agricultural parcel. And to do this, your neighbours wishes are considered. Unless you can get your land rezoned (and as found out, sometimes the municipality just won't let you do that).
Sage Boyd

Joined: Mar 15, 2012
Posts: 32
We (my hubby and I) have spent the last 9 years studying/visiting communities all around the east coast and into Ohio.

One model we have seen, that appeals to us more than anything else, is used at Dancing Bones in New Hampshire. The community was originally purchased about 45 years ago by the founding member, who purchased it as a non-profit corporation. 8 "homes" and 7 tent platforms, a Quonset hut, and a mail shed have been built in that time. The community building, which served as a house for beginning members at one time, has running water and electricity. I think it even has Internet. Most of the cabins are simple, one or two rooms with lofts. The two oldest buildings, built by founding members, are several rooms and have more amenities. I tell you this so you have an idea of what the place is like. All the homes/houses have been built/paid for by the people that live or lived in them. As members have come and gone (or been asked to leave) The community has struggled on how to handle returning the investment of the people that are leaving. The consensus is that the person that paid for the house owns the structure itself, and so ofetn times the community members have pooled together to purchase the house from the people leaving: leaving the community able to "sell" it to the next person wishing to inhabit it, or to allow people to stay while retaining ownership (at no cost to the individuals using the house and covering the expense of the repairs/maintenance).

To me, the key point in this structure is that the community owns/maintains control of the land and who has permission to reside on it. The members have full ownership of their own house and can sell it to whom they like, but there is no guarantee that the new owner will have permission from the community to live in it. This motivates the seller to either sell the structure to another member of the community (as has happened several times) or to the community itself. Since meetings are held weekly and decisions about major projects are communal, this integrated community needs people on the land that work well together, and the system they have is working well. Subdividing the parcel of land is not possible or desirable in this case, and i would not want to split a parcel of land, ever... so this sounds wonderful to me.

Bella Donawitz

Joined: May 18, 2012
Posts: 15

My first post on the site!
I am looking at buying a big acreage and wanting to share with other families and having the same 'ownership' problems. (160 acres around the Kamloops bc area 180k price tag).
I am more then happy too put in 100k and have the balance paid by other families. who wants/needs 160 ac to your self?!
I like the idea of starting a cooperation association so everyone pays a lawyer and not me! However we all then just own the land. This idea doesn't bother me but seems to be a big hurdle for others so I looked in to subdividing this land and..... OMG!!!

In intrest of keeping this shortish, I found out after much research, we'd only be able to maybe subdivide a couple of 2ac properties and this requires MANY surveys/reports/$money$. We would then also have to have a building plan for each lot thus requiring building permits. If we do not go through w/ official subdivision but start a cooperative w/ shares we are under no restrictions.

I like the share idea with deed restrictions (ie no round up on the land or puppy mills etc....) Then with group approval the person could sell their shares for what they paid, plus at their discretion additional amount for their green home.
I would pay to live in established green home w/ a garden. I believe others would as well. People are too dependent on getting rich from their homes. Its a good thing to be rewarded for your hard work monetarily, just not at the cost of others.

Steven Johnson

Joined: Mar 14, 2012
Posts: 61
Location: south east mo
Hi everyone, this is my first post here. It is good to see that some others are sharing my concerns. I have been homesteading sort of, first with a wife, and then an ex wife, owning the land with me. That does not work. I like the idea of cooperative ownership, a company of some sort, with defined goals and rules limiting how much you can limit co-owners. Like most who grew up in this society, I need some autonomy. I need more than most as far as I can tell but I sure need other people to work with as well.
I want a situation where I and others have private living and experimentation space, but where the bulk of the garden and livestock operations are shared communally. I want to extract as much of my life as possible from the money economy, and live in a many faceted community of plants and animals and people committed to similar goals. Seems like we need good rules, to work out the inevitable problems that people have in getting along. I think that something close to the burning man idea would be good, integrated with a biodynamic style of eco infra structure improvement paradigm.
The 80 acres I have been working with is for sale now, because my ex wants her money out, and I will either find people to join me here or take the money and join with others who want something similar.
Mike Smithe

Joined: Mar 01, 2012
Posts: 5
I did end up getting that book I mentioned, above, from my library, and it's by far the best and most comprehensive guide for ALL of this stuff that I've come across so far - and haven't found any recommendations anywhere for anything better. So, for now, this might be THE 'bible' for creating/maintaining all the various elements of intentional-communities.
(I'm not affiliated in any way or trying to 'sell' anything... it's simply an awesome book.)
Steven Johnson

Joined: Mar 14, 2012
Posts: 61
Location: south east mo
Hi Mike, So how about you tell us what the best idea in the book was? I liked your first post in this thread about how to own the land in community.
I have been thinking about this a lot. I think we need to hold an ideal, a goal in mind, and also work from where we are, immersed in a competive society.If we can identify and learn to trust a group with whom we pledge to work cooperatively, together maybe, against the rest of the world, and get that to work, and accumulate a permanent culture of cooperation, maybe it can accumulate rescources and grow and eventually overshadow the money driven economy. What do you think? Steven
Mike Smithe

Joined: Mar 01, 2012
Posts: 5
Steven Johnson wrote:Hi Mike, So how about you tell us what the best idea in the book was? I liked your first post in this thread about how to own the land in community.
I have been thinking about this a lot. I think we need to hold an ideal, a goal in mind, and also work from where we are, immersed in a competive society.If we can identify and learn to trust a group with whom we pledge to work cooperatively, together maybe, against the rest of the world, and get that to work, and accumulate a permanent culture of cooperation, maybe it can accumulate rescources and grow and eventually overshadow the money driven economy. What do you think? Steven

I'm fully on board with those intentions, but it's a massively complex issue that will probably have to shake out on the fly by those who are actually doing it.
Being that we're very much still inside the legal/political/economic 'container' of The Matrix, these land issues require a ton of legal planning and support. It looks like the only way to do it properly/solidly/trustworthy/reliably is to set up legal entities (LLC's/non-profits/etc.) via lawyers/contracts/'corporations'/taxCPA's/etc. It's super complex and I don't fully get it (at all, really) (but I haven't actually read through each page - I've skimmed just to see that this subject matter IS thoroughly covered). Any group doing it will likely need an expert real-estate agent and an expert attorney and a CPA, at several stages through the process.

Of course people can just 'trust' each other and take that leap of faith - but my sensibilities tell me that this kind of thing/behavior will never truly take root for anyone who has any kind of mainstream sensibilities (as in, they want some guarantees for the thousands and thousands of dollars and countless hours of effort they'll be putting into their residence).

The book spends numerous chapters going over it (plus tons of other critical elements involved in the overall picture). It's COMPLEX. So I can really only say GET THE BOOK. Anyone who is serious about this is going to need to have it on their shelf, for thousands of references over time. I see it, used, for $15, so getting the book is the only way to go. I'm ultra grateful that someone has already mapped it all out with a guide like this. I didn't know we'd gotten this far (to be able to step-by-step it...I was worried it's all too new of a concept to have any actual reference material yet.)

Tyler Ludens

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5729
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
I love that book. I was so enthusiastic I ended up giving away two copies and ended up with none of my own! :p

Penny Francis

Joined: Jul 29, 2012
Posts: 15
I was thinking a lot about this issue the last few days. Having set up my own business which I currently run, led me to consult with an attorney and an accountant as well as conduct my own research. I have also taken many classes regarding real estate ownership. Obviously some laws are different depending on what state you are in. Your choice as to how to hold the land is also dependent on your personal goals. So let me share a little here.

In the state I currently reside you can set up a trust and hold the land in a trust. The trust has to be recorded with the county the land is in. Any trust which does not own land need not be recorded. The only person(s) 'on record' are the trustee(s). The beneficiaries are the owners of the land in effect. The trustee can be given vast powers or limited powers and can also be a beneficiary. Any trust where the trustee(s)=the beneficiary(s) is not a valid trust. The beneficiaries can sell their interest, though the sale process can be restricted by the trust (right of first refusal, etc). My understanding is there are states where a trust which holds land does not need to be recorded, thus no 'public record.'

Corporations - not so sure I would use this method as anyone working needs to receive a paycheck. This produces income taxes and reporting requirements for the shareholders.If you form anon-profit corporation I am unsure how that affects things. Shareholders could sell their shares to others. Again, the sale of shares can be restricted through the corporate and/or partnership agreements.

LLC's may be a viable option. Shares are easily sold. Can be restricted as mentioned previously. Shareholders receive their share of profits as distributions. I am not sure if you can set this up as a non-profit.

Personally, I would want as little reporting and government interference as possible. Not sure which one of these entities would be best for that. I would definitely want some type of agreement for all involved to spell out everyone's rights and obligations. Keeping things in your own name can open you up to personal liability.

I think I confused myself even more. I certainly have not resolved anything.
Paulo Bessa

Joined: Jun 15, 2012
Posts: 336
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
I like in a community. Here you can buy land /house, but actually very little people do that, because it does not add any difference to it. I think if he/she would want to sell, then he/she can, but the rules apply to a new member anyway. There is a leader that decides most important decisions, I know its not the ideal system but it works.

I think if one person buys a share and own a share of power, its a big potencial problem unless you have a big list of rules, a leader that dictates a decision amongst a conflict, or unless everyone has very good intentions.

I would like to think of a better system, but I think utopia still doesn't work quite well if you have something larger than 5-10 people...
With a small number of people, 3-8, then it might be workable especially if you know very well each member.

Do I have a problem in feeling it's not "mine". No, I invest plants and seed into it. If something goes wrong, then I can take some plants with me, and consider I let the remaining (mostly perennials and trees) as a permacultural contribution to the community. I actually want to have my "own" plants growing as much as everywhere as possible, so I give them to friend, and have them growing in several places at same time.

Even if I buy land in our place, how do I know its going to be "that place" "forever"? I might end up wanting to move later. So, a house investment should always be seen as temporary, just as nature is. Ice ages come and kill your plants, sooner or later. That's just how life is, my friends

Mike Smithe wrote:That's exactly the issue. And I imagine there must be a few communities out there that have come up with creative ways to deal with it. Seems like some kind of 'share' system (like stocks, maybe) in a co-op business model might work...with a board/council that can veto transactions (so as to keep out parties who have the money to buy in but don't offer what the community is looking for in co-residents)?

Our projects:
in Portugal, sheltered terraces facing eastwards, high water table, uphill original forest of pines, oaks and chestnuts. 2000m2
in Iceland: converted flat lawn, compacted poor soil, cold, windy, humid climate, cold, short summer. 50m2
Karen Crane

Joined: May 03, 2011
Posts: 157
This whole thing is of great interest. As an older person,
I really want to "own" my own land , but would like to be near
a like minded community to do projects, etc.
I am fed up with ex's, "friends: or whoever being able to tell me
to leavea place where I did a lot of work fixing and planting.
I dont want to hear that againl
Further I dont like the idea of someone in charge of my time or life.
Also would lie to be able to get my equity out if I want or leave
it to my children. so they can sell if they want to.
So far I have not found any community
land would work out the way I would like my life to be.
So I decided to just buy whatever I could afford and do the best with my own homestead.
I have looked all over for something like this and because my budget
to buy is tiny, I have only found small 1/2 acre - 2 acre parcels , but no community nearby.
Need to stay in California, so makes it even more fun.
As I get older, I am less able to do hard work and will need holp
which is why I liked the idea of a nearby community for additional help and to do projects.
Am currently still looking for a place to go. Any suggestions?
Suki Leith

Joined: Jul 27, 2012
Posts: 101
Location: Oakland, CA
Hi. I have been interested in communal living since a child in the 70's and studied whatever I could find back then, and there wasn't much. I even wanted to visit as many as I could one summer in high school, but could find no one interested in going with me! Later, I interviewed at a couple and found these particular ones to be quite oppressive in the amount of rules and meetings they had, as well as very claustrophobic and overly group think. I also interviewed many people who were raised in communes and most of those children of hippies felt sometimes overly exposed and vulnerable to the eccentricities of some commune members and also robbed of being part of "normal" society and overly sheltered. Some of them ended up being quite conservative! Later still I investigated several intentional communities and found them to be kind of elitist. I was (and still am) economically challenged at the time and my shared values or willingness to work and commit didn't have enough capitol for them. While in architecture school I studied intentional communities and found many of them to be likewise limited by group think, rules, and again somewhat elitist. No. Very elitist. You will note that most intentional communities are highly planned new construction of the best materials...

I began to feel that instead of solving problems these groups were creating a lot of problems. In addition, the vision of these small groups of people with the means to create new utopias seemed to me to be the opposite of community. It felt like they were running away from the challenges which needed the most attention, versus creating a model which could benefit humanity. It seemed like the opposite of building community to me.

One project I really liked was, I think if memory serves me correctly, in the Netherlands. It was an urban intentional community. Unlike the others which were planned, this one grew almost organically, from a couple of apartments to whole housing blocks. What I loved about it was that it shared with larger community in which it was situated, so it served more than just themselves.

Meanwhile, I have this dream of being a steward on my own land and building my own house which is sadly an isolating prospect. My grown children are all for this pursuit but worry about my living in isolation, as am I, so I am looking at eco-villages. Again, it is frustrating because there are all of the above issues in eco-villages too. And I don't necessarily want to dance to early music while dressing like a celt or feel guilty if I crave bacon or - you know, I want to keep my independence and be free to think/live as I want without criticism.

So I was wondering about another model. Say a large site is found that can legally be subdivided into sustainable-sized parcels and sold outright to individuals, just as a starter. But one parcel is sold to a non-profit which we all belong to. And that one parcel/community space is not only for us, but for the neighboring larger community as well. So we can all break bread together, pool resources into a community tool shed and shop - that kind of thing. I'd like to be part of something that is not so exclusive or claustrophobic, which works with and deals with and celebrates that we are all a little different and that actually promotes a sense of community/plugs into and builds up the local community that already exists.

Andrew Schreiber

Joined: Apr 01, 2012
Posts: 168
Location: Zone 6a, Wahkiacus, WA
perhaps the best way for everyone to have "ownership" (not in a legal sense but in a REAL sense) is for no one to legally own the land.

One model that has worked well for the Windward Community ( over three decades is to have a corporation own the land. A corporation that is governed by a board of directors who have stakeholding capacity in the corporation to the exact extent that they have both 1) invested Time and 2) invested Money into the community.

happy to elaborate more on the complexity of the representative consensus model Windward has worked out over the last thirty years. But dont want to overload the conversation.


Windward Intentional Community
Karen Magrath

Joined: Sep 04, 2012
Posts: 3
I really appreciate all the posts on here. Good ideas/information. We are in the process of trying to sell our home and move to a local neighborhood. It's run by "American Homesteading Foundation". I'm including the link here because much of their paperwork is found there as well (which may be helpful to some). Basically, the community gets first right of refusal (to purchase the property) when a homeowner puts it up for sale. Interesting history, too. Thanks for letting me join the permies!

Suki Leith

Joined: Jul 27, 2012
Posts: 101
Location: Oakland, CA
Hi Karen,

Was unable to download the Charter. Can you describe how it works? Of course, HOA makes the hair stand up on the back of one's neck, but if the Charter was reasonable and the power of the board has checks, then I think it could be a great model. Please keep us updated on how actually living there turns out...
Karen Magrath

Joined: Sep 04, 2012
Posts: 3
Suki- Believe me, I understand the reticence about even hearing the word "HOA". We currently live in a heavily-HOA-policed neighborhood. We have had a year and a half long fight about the fact that we (LEGALLY, under FL law) removed some sod and planted Florida natives, put some raised food beds and compost bins in (that could be seen from the street before the native plants filled in to hide), etc.... attorneys involved and all! I always swore I'd never live in an HOA neighborhood again.

However, the homestead association's "HOA" rules for Town of Melbourne Village are in place to encourage FL native plants (rather than sod), to encourage food gardens, preserve the "natural" look and feel of the neighborhood's parks and paths, home designs that are not the typical cookie-cutter 'hoods seen here, and to encourage people of like-mindedness to live there, etc..

Some of the very few written rules are as such: Any home going on the market, must first give the association 30 days to decide whether or not it wants to purchase the property. Also, anyone wanting to purchase must put at least 10% cash down (not sure why on this one, except to try to keep groups from going in and buying up lots of properties for other reasons). Everyone must pay a one-time sum to become a member of the homestead group (was it $1000 or $2000??), and that money goes to help upkeep the common areas, etc.

This neighborhood, Town of Melbourne Village (TMV), stayed separate from the incorporation of the City of Melbourne. TMV has it's own police, mayor, town hall, etc. and only a couple hundred homes. Apparently the "county" sends in fire and ambulance. Also, apparently, property taxes in TMV are higher than elsewhere (to help pay for the police, town hall employees, etc.)

If our house would sell, I'd move there in a heartbeat. It sounds perfect for my and my family.


Karen Magrath

Joined: Sep 04, 2012
Posts: 3
Here is a link to the Town of Melbourne Village itself, rather than the Homesteading website:

This is from their homepage:
The Town of Melbourne Village, Florida
Melbourne Village is a town of about 700 residents and one half of one square mile surrounded by Melbourne and West Melbourne. The Town is approx. 90% residential – about 310 lots – mostly owner occupied. We have about 20 acres of commercial land in 5 parcels, four of which are currently developed and occupied. The remaining one is vacant land and will probably be developed in the next ten years. The annual town budget, including the 24/7 police department, is about $650,000.

Melbourne Village was founded in the 1940s by the American Homesteading Foundation (AHF) as an intentional community based on the idea of creating a community of self-sufficient homesteads. The Town incorporated in 1957 and developed into a more "standard" model of a bedroom community for the space industry and support professionals, with a very active and fairly powerful home owner's group in the AHF.

The Town retains much of the sense of community, and community purpose, of the founding group, as well as the idea of community action. The Town has been ahead of the curve on many issues, including environmental concerns.

This is from American Homesteading Foundation's site:

American Homesteading Foundation
The American Homesteading Foundation (AHF) is the founding organization and developer of a unique intentional community, Melbourne Village, in Brevard County, Florida. The AHF is a not-for-profit corporation chartered first under the laws of the State of Ohio in 1946 and more recently in Florida in 1977.
The founding members of the organization had an idealistic vision of a community which would share resources, barter with one another, and engage in productive enterprises.
In the late 1940s ranch land was bought and subdivided in generous residential lots with winding streets and many parks. Lots and memberships were sold. Today there are about 300 member homesteads in the Village.
Today, the AHF functions much like a homeowners association. It manages a recreation hall, swimming pool, offices and about 40 acres of parkland. It sponsors recreation and social events including 4th of July parade, Halloween party, Easter egg hunt, game nights, Christmas dinner, and flea market.
The AHF works closely with the municipally of Melbourne Village (Town). The latter provides security with a 24/7 police department, issues building permits, and maintains the roads and drainage infra structure.

I don't know what's up with the links to the Document Library not working. I emailed them to ask about that. They were working this summer when we were looking at moving there. I have them all printed out. I did look up the one-time fee, and it is currently $2,000. There is a Certificate of Incorporation of The Florida Homesteading Foundation, Inc.; Bylaws for same; something called "This Indenture" (which covers rules such as 1)definition of "homesite", 2) homesites for singl family only, etc., 3) homesites may not be subdivided, 4) prevention of "obnoxious structures:, 5) livestock may be kept, 6) rules for selling homesites, 7) these agreements shall run with the land conveyed, each ruled deemed separable provision, 9) "Foundation" rights to enforce the rules

Hope this is helpful.


Suki Leith

Joined: Jul 27, 2012
Posts: 101
Location: Oakland, CA
Very interesting. I'd like to hear how the Ohio charter fared in practice. I guess I would also wonder if AHF would be interested in having a west coast branch and if they are only self-sustaining or are also building rotating fund for more branches, and whether or not they would abandon their less developed origins in a new project. A lot of it sounds good to me, except I'd also be interested in shares in a managed community woodlot.

REALLY interesting to me is how they were their own village and then became their own town. I mean, the possibilities of this for permaculture are really exciting. Imagine if there was a whole permaculture town! Maybe then low-impact buildings wouldn't be such an issue...
Logan Streondj

Joined: Nov 02, 2010
Posts: 45
During the Occupy fiasco I came up with the idea of Landshare communities, which would have been able to get affordable housing for occupiers.
It can also be applied to intentional communities, and ecovillages or other such communities.

The idea is a little similar to a condo, where a non-profit co-operative owns the property, otherwise the property is divided into square-meter shares.
Just as there are corridors and common areas in a condo or village, a percentage of everyone's shares are communal.
Based on golden-ratio would be 60-40 or 40-60 though some prefer 80-20 rule.

Similar to a member co-op affiliates can purchase a few shares (enough for them to have private-space to set up a tent for instance), for visit any-time ability. People pay for ongoing costs of the community in proportion to the amount of shares they have. Ideally there is also a differentiation between different kinds of shares, i.e. agricultural vs m^2 inside a house. This way people that started out as major-members, but found they were more interested in other things, don't have to "quit", they can simply reduce their share-holdings.

In terms of how to get multiple people to live on the same plot, a part of it can be rezoned commerical or residential. It's relatively easy to get permits for off-grid buildings without plumbing/sanitation. Alternatively may be able to get trailer-park or eco-trailer-park zoning, and then have all the buildings as portable tiny-homes (no-permits required). Also if the current situation become unfavourable can move to another area, and it's easier to reproduce communities, as can simply move some buildings to new location. Another benefit of the tiny-homes is that can have high-density, and it's easier for the kids to move-out since they can get/build their own tiny-home.

Shares can be rented to anyone, but sold only to people which are okayed by the community, probationary period for new members where they lease for a few months before buying is also viable. Shares can also be mortgaged interest-free to new community members.

Anyways here is a document I made a while ago (2011), it has a few example properties also
Justin Neel

Joined: Jul 15, 2013
Posts: 4
Some interesting ideas here, but I think the simplest solution is two evil words most everyone here loathes "Homeowners Association". If people can set them up to force lawns and keep chickens out, why couldn't they be set up to force organic compliance, off grid power consumption, composting toilets, no more than 150 sqft of lawn..... and so on.
I agree. Here's the link:
subject: individual 'shares' of communal land? Discussion