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Intentional Communities and Alternative Housing

BIL: Oakland 2016 Recession Generation was an conference in Oakland, California on July 9th, 2016. The Intentional Communities Panel explored new ways of living communally, and the need to respond to the housing affordability crisis with revised land use policy.

Betsy Morris, a partner with Co-Housing California, presented dozens of cases around California where tiny homes, mobile accommodation, and other kinds of modern living were proliferating and finding success. The need for these new kinds of housing was stark and urgent, she said.

“Let’s just say it: here in the Bay Area, it is crisis mode. We have a 30-year shortage of housing at almost every scale below the top 10 or 20 percent of the market. And today, our Bay Area government acknowledges that 43 percent of all the nine county households are overpaying, which means that they are sacrificing other parts of their budget to take care of housing, and 23 percent are seriously overpaying.”

The debt-driven housing system that still dominated modern economies was driving people to dream up new ways to live close to amenities, keep communities intact, and avoid devoting a majority of disposable income to simply putting a roof over one’s head, Morris said.

“Not a single county in the U.S. provides enough housing for its low-income people, and that affects everybody else up the scale of incomes to an extent,” she said. “It’s like we’ve forgotten that other alternatives exist.”

Shared equity communities were spreading across California and in other parts of the U.S., and with the right municipal leeway they could be a readily accessible solution for thousands of people otherwise unable to be part of a housing community.

“The great thing about Georgist land economics is it provides a logical, theoretical basis for looking at situations and saying ‘how could this work?’ The kinds of communities I’m showing you are living examples of efforts not to talk about some big overarching macro global economy, but actually on the ground, what does it look like to share the earth?”

“We’re starting to see a body of knowledge that allows conversations with the policymakers who primarily rely on traditional economic theories whether it’s of the state, intervention, or free-market rampant.”

The panel was completed by Aaron Castle and Candace Anderson, a Bay Area couple who have lived in their own tiny house for more than two years. The economic necessity of finding an alternative living solution had also given them both new freedoms and a new sense of community that paying thousands of dollars to rent a room simply didn’t offer.

“There’s no way we would have been able to stay in the Bay Area if we didn’t do this,” Anderson said.

Watch the full panel below:

Featured photo: Bill Dickinson via Flickr

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