Hi! I've just discovered this site and have been looking around at the various forum threads and the discussions going on and wanted to see if any of you have any thoughts/advice for me.
I have about 10-15 friends (we're in our 20s) who have all been discussing among us the idea of basically setting up what amounts to a tiny home community (though we are not set on tiny homes specifically) on a plot of land that allows us to grow food mostly for ourselves with the possibility of having surplus to sell to help cover upkeep costs. At this point the idea does still feel like a pipe dream, but we've all agreed that if it looked like things were in place for us to be able to make it happen for real - we'd jump right on it.
I've been doing a lot of research over the past year since we came up with this idea, and while it does look like it will require some upfront costs, it doesn't seem impossible by any means. I've basically come up with three categories for costs to look at: the cost of renting or buying the land, the cost of building or buying our "main house" (which we would likely all live in for a year or two while we save up/get set up to get our individual homes) along with related costs such as running water/electricity if that isn't readily available, and then the cost of building or buying our individual houses, as well as setup for each.
I've basically come up with a rough sketch of a plan of how this could work, but I was wondering if any of you would like to provide any input or advice as to things that I may have overlooked or that could be improved on.
-Land: I've been looking on various websites that post information about farms in Upstate NY seeking farmers to either rent or buy their land. However, I am a bit concerned that none of these would actually be open to the kind of thing that we are looking for. I have noticed a few postings where the owner seems to take a more "hands-off" approach and be less concerned with having their tenants doing ~this thing~ and ~that thing~ in particular. I imagine one possible solution would be to go physically to the places where the land may be available, and that is definitely an option as I live in NYC but also have access to a friend with a car, so I could go explore around the Poughkeepsie to Albany area. If you have any suggestions on other places that we should be looking for land to rent or buy, I'd be happy to hear it.
-"Main House": Based on our discussions, my friends and I would ideally like to have a somewhat larger house in a central location on our property to be a community space. I also thought of the possibility that, if we are not confident we can get the funds for both the main house *and* each of our individual houses right away, we could bunk in the main house for a while. I've looked at manufactured homes of 3 or 4 bedrooms (depending on how many of us buy in) and two baths as a possibility for this. I have found numbers for a double-wide mobile home of this setup for about $40-50k, but I know that it may be possible to find a decent quality used home for less than that - I just don't think I've found the right places to look yet. I believe we would also need to factor in the cost of possibly connecting up water and electricity - I admit I haven't done all my research on the best strategies for water supply and dealing with greywater/blackwater, as I'm currently still focused on more of the bigger picture, but I know costs for setting up all of that will probably be higher than I expect.
-Our individual homes: I've looked into a variety of options, and unless something changes in the next year or two and those 3D printed concrete houses get completely systematized and become crazy inexpensive and easy to do, this is probably going to be used single-wide one or two bedroom mobile homes. I'm getting widely varying prices for these so I don't yet have the best idea of what this will take, for each of us. And I also have a big question mark next to the issue of hookups - do you think it's logistically impossible to get electricity/water hookups set up for each of the mobile homes? Or if it's possible, is it going to be prohibitively expensive?
Basically, before any of us can put serious thought to setting aside funds for this or making plans to move, I want to have a pretty detailed plan in place (and a backup plan, cause no plan survives first contact with the enemy the real world). I'll continue to do research on all of these questions, but I wanted to see if any of you would like to chime in here as well.
Wow, this sounds like an amazing project. Pipe dreams are the best, but easily accomplished when you have so many friends willing to participate.
I would say right off the bat that you should look for something to buy, it eases a lot of the responsibility of leasing someones land and gives you the freedom to do whatever you want--within reason.
Also, with so many people, I wouldn't bother purchasing prefab homes. They can be filled with toxic gick and you can easily build something so much more fantastic with so many people helping. Look into strawbale and cob construction and if you really like it then you and your friends can set up a schedule for building each others houses one at a time until they are all done. I recommend looking at the mud girls collective if you haven't before now to get inspired. https://www.mudgirls.ca/
I think with that many friends you could build something to share in a year or two, then spend a summer constructing reasonable homes for each of you.
Pick your location with care, find out what kind of building codes will need to be followed. Even if you plan on doing a composting toilet, you may be required by county laws to put in a septic tank. You may be required to install multiple tanks for multiple houses.
Many small homes can curtail a building code if you build under a certain size. Or better yet, just build the main "shared home" with plumbing for everyone, a shared kitchen space and dining hall, then build individual homes as "dry" cabins without plumbing. Each of these would give the owner personal space, but be much cheaper and faster to build.
Sounds like an amazing idea. Go for it and post here to let us know how it is going.
Lots of legal stuff to look into. Finding property where the departments of sadness do not care about 10+ dwellings, restrictive building codes, etc... a challenge in many places. Leasing is no protection, the lessor can't fight town hall for you.. and what happens when they die or need to sell the property suddenly?
Talk up front about how you will handle it when people decide to move on from the project. If your project is going to survive, it must be designed to withstand departures of people and capital.
Experiemce gained on other peoples projects is a great way to learn, and one of things some people learn is that they are not interested in XYZ on a long term basis... a much easier discovery before one has invested all your money in a charming XYZ farm!
Look at Ithaca for ideas on how this is done. There are quite a few communities there that could give you a number of ideas. As for land with little oversight I’d say come to the area we are in. Oswego and surrounding counties (especially East and north), has a TON of land, lots with water available and forest. We’ve found in certain areas as long as you speak with the code guys and are polite and informed, they will work with you. Of course if you decide to go into the woods a bit they won’t bother you at all lol. BUT, this is definitely not the city. Learn to love the snow and remember NY has a shorter growing season so learning to start seed early and possibly utilizing a green house is a must. Let’s just say that about 10 min from me is Redfield.... set a record for most snow at over 300 inches in a winter. What you want to do is very possible and I look forward to seeing it come to fruition 😊
Would love to show you ladies around our neck of the woods. Jules
Cherry Plain Sanctuary Farm, home to a lovely Quarterhorse mare, a lovely Standardbred mare, a lovely Standardbred/Haflinger filly, two mules, two llamas, many bees, seven cats, three weimeraners, three humans, and the ever expanding plant kingdom.