In my previous post about the principles that would govern my ideal community (affordability, space, distribution of labor, technology, education and job skills, and self-determination), several of you made comments and asked questions about how those principles might work in practice. Here are my thoughts.
Across the street from my workplace is a Lowe’s (Lowe’s is a hardware/supplies store, for those of you that aren’t familiar with it). The Lowe’s parking lot has a bunch of sheds. Being the odd kind of guy I am, I took a tour of the sheds during lunch one day, and discovered that sheds are a lot cooler than I thought. One looks like this:
It’s about 100 sq ft (9.2 sq m) with a workbench at one end. It’s got enough space to lay out a couple of futons, and the workbench could make a decent dining bar. But my favorite is this one:
It’s a little bigger, at 120 sq ft (11.1 sq m), but best of all it’s really tall and has a loft storage area.
The first one is about $1,000 and the second is about $2,000. Best of all, they’re stick built, which means they could theoretically be insulated and drywalled. I figure that a tricked out shed would come to about $5,000.
Now, before you try and burst my bubble and tell me that no one wants to live in a shed, let me say — I know. But that’s not entirely true. There are a few people who might enjoy it. The kind of people who read Thoreau, or Calvin and Hobbes. Or who enjoy watching movies like “No Impact Man”. So I understand that living in a shed isn’t your kind of thing. That’s cool, I’m not going to make you live there.
That said, there are some concerns that really do need to be addressed.
First is the word “shed”. Because, despite what I said above, really no one wants to live in a shed. But people are cool with living in cabins. And these sheds are pretty similar to the cabins we stayed in at one of my Boy Scout camps. So I’ll call them “cabins” (even though you know that I’m really just talking about sheds).
The problem with these cabins is that they don’t have bathrooms or kitchens. So, I envision a few of them built around a shared restroom facility, kind of like this:
Add in a main central dining/recreation hall and some walking trails, and it starts to look like a community:
Set aside some of the open areas as gardens, fields, and playgrounds and you’ve got something that meets a lot of the “Space” criteria that I outlined in my previous post.
But back to affordability, how are we doing? Well, if I were to target, say, 3 – 5 acres for this, the land would cost (in my area) somewhere between $50,000 and $500,000 (or more), depending on how close to town it’s located. As a talking point, I’ll say $250,000.
I don’t know much about construction costs, so I’ll just pull the other numbers out of the air — $200,000 for each of the restroom facilities, and $400,000 for the dining hall. That puts me at a little under $1.5 million. Split that between 10 families and you’re at $150,000 per family. The internet tells me that a home loan for $150,000 at 5% comes to about $800 a month.
What about legality — zoning and building codes? I mean, legally you can’t really live in a shed…ahem…cabin. And what about financing? You can’t get financing for a weird project like this just as easily as you do for a conventional home purchase.
Okay, you’ve got me there. I don’t really know anything about the legal or finance aspects of construction. And I know there’s plenty that I’m glossing over — property insurance, maintenance, etc. I’ll have to get back to you on that.
As for the other principles — distribution of labor, technology, education and job skills, and self-determination — I’ll come back and write more on those later too.