Lafayette More House, USA

Here is how we have community without too much money.  And the group that physically lives together is like the nucleus of a big circle of friends and acquaintances - kind of like 'extended family.' We are neither permaculturists, nor seclusionists.  And too broke to be co-housers. We have been together since 1968.  Here is how we did it. We've seen (and helped, and help) others do it this way.

One of the things that has worked well in our community is for people to live together by simply getting larger apartments or a larger house than the ones they have now.  [we prefer to own, not rent]  The cost per bedroom of a 5 bedroom apartment is usually lower than the cost per bedroom of a 2 bedroom apartment, making it more affordable.

The way we originally started was to buy a 'white elephant' property - too big for anyone else to want - and run down - and in a bad neighborhood.   But the way to pick a bad neighborhood is to pick one was one that has already hit bottom and is on its way up.  We bought a hundred year old three story Victorian single family home that had 9+ bedrooms. It was condemned when we bought it - although structurally sound - and was scheduled for demolition.  There was a large hole in the kitchen floor in front of the sink. It cost us so little.

There was no argument about what to do - the first order of the day was to fix the hole in the kitchen floor.  The building inspectors couldn't believe what we were up to, and as we were actually working on the house, they gladly told us what we had to fix, and how to fix it, and seeing us making progress they didn't hassle us over how fast (or slow) we worked. We always have coffee and cookies when they come.  Being in a poor neighborhood no one hassled us over zoning (or was too fussy about building permits).  We have at least one bedroom as a 'sanctuary program' where we give free housing to someone who was homeless - which helped us make friends with the community, the local merchants, the police.  Being a group, we went out together and came home together so that we could deal with the reality of our bad neighborhood. We didn't need as many cars or as many trips to the store.  There was always somebody home, usually a crowd, so we were safe.

People working on the house made the house better, and gave people a sense of ownership and brought us together as a group. We believe in making things fun, so around our place doing construction work includes music, people bringing you things to eat and drink, people dancing, taking breaks - we call it a 'groovy'. Fun is a big part of our philosophy - we find shared beliefs and shared ownership are big things that help a group make it.

We think the best way is to build your own dream, instead of buying someone else's. And better to start living the way you want to live Now.

We bought the "wrecker's ball special" in 1968, and a couple of years ago they put in a Whole Foods two blocks away ("there goes the neighborhood"). The isolated rural property with a run down house we bought next is now surrounded by expensive suburban condos and McMansions. Go figure!

We eventually started some official charities to feed and shelter people and we do 'Toys for Tots' with the Marines. We invite our friends to our parties, we invite our friends to our "groovies" (construction projects) and we invite our friends to volunteer with the charities. We teach courses about what we did and how we do it.

It is certainly not all 'peace, love and harmony', but I will say that there is nothing on television as interesting as what happens in my kitchen.




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