The following model is a working document. Details may change depending on the pioneering group coming together to actually obtain a specific piece of land and start an Eco Village.
This document is designed to assist us dealing with nitty gritty questions we all have.
Questions such as: What is a Family Unit? What are the membership fees? How will people earn income while on the EcoVillage land? Who makes up the board of trustees?, etc.
This document has evolved over a period of a few years out of a fluid group of people meeting regularly. More recently it has been edited by a few of us, mandated to do so at a ‘Task Team Formation’ meeting held in Muizenberg CT in October 2016. There are still many details, that have arisen and will arise, that will need to be addressed. However, we feel that this is enough detail in order to stimulate the next phases of this project, and bring people who are interested in to help with it.
Our Eco Village Model – Basic Summary
The basic premise for starting this Eco Village is to find donations/loans from people who understand and believe in what we want to do. They will provide the money to buy a piece of land for the Eco Village. Agreements will be made with these people regarding paying them back, where necessary e.g. after the pioneering phase, over number of years.
Accessing money to purchase the land is a way to reduce the entrance/membership fee per (family) unit, making access far more affordable. It makes other agreements, for accessing entrance/membership fees, for those who have much to offer besides an upfront sum of money, more accessible.
In addition, this working model describes the need for all members to pay monthly levies for the costs on the land as a whole, as well as rental for any section of land they use for working (enterprises). As such, there will likely be various sets of costs for any member unit.
These costs are designed to be fair and transparent in terms of what we are each paying for. The overall intention is that the accumulated costs will still be vastly cheaper than what many of us are currently paying in order to live. Additionally, we know that collectively we receive direct benefit from any costs we are paying.
Our model suggests that the land obtained will be held in a Trust, meaning that no individual can sell that land. The land is thus secured for us to put our hearts and energy into developing the land and the community as a whole. The board of Trustees (including some of us) oversees the requirements of the Trust i.e. that our activities on the land fit the purpose of the Trust – e.g. the establishing and running of an Eco Village .
Only in the extreme case of the project ‘failing’ may the board of trustees decide that the land needs to be sold. Loans would then be set off, and the remaining proceeds be offered to another Trust of similar purpose.
Note: The various costs (for each member unit) are designed to motivate and clarify, thus ensuring the viability of the project. Entrance/Membership fees provide seed capital to develop infrastructure and common essential projects that all members benefit from. Living in close proximity, on shared land, will certainly make it easier for us to start collaborative projects and businesses.
Ultimately, our model will need to be tested and reviewed, to see that it is in alignment with the principles set out in ‘Our Eco Village’ Charter, and other supporting documents.
Our Eco Village Model
- Funding of the land purchase
1.1 Donations/Loans (D/L) are sought to raise the capital to buy the land.
1.2 A contract will be agreed between the Trust and each D/L.
1.3 This contract will contain following principles:
1.3.1 While the project is an ongoing concern, and after a period of time agreed upon, unanimous agreement between the trustees and the EcoVillage Dwellers (EVDs), and considering the solvency of the project as a whole, repayment of the loans may commence in a fair manner agreed by all.
1.3.2 From the outset, the EVD association will manage a bank account, which will receive a percentage of the income from the Monthly Levy (see 4.1) paid by all EVDs. These funds are ring-fenced for various longer-term uses that include any repayment of D/Ls, for major emergency and disaster management, insurances, and an internal bank.
1.3.3 In the event that the EcoVillage project closes, the land will be sold and the D/L will be repaid proportionally to their initial loan amount.
1.3.4 If a profit is realised on the sale of the land then additional funds left over will be donated to a Trust with a similar purpose to this one.
1.3.5 Other loan repayment options may be considered e.g. enterprise rentals may be offset by loan repayments. This may only be implemented following the pioneer phase, and where economically viable for the EVD member association.
- Land Ownership Vehicle
2.1 A Trust is created and its name will be on the title deed of the land. The land cannot be sold unless a ⅔ majority of people on the board of the Trust agree that the purpose of the project is no longer viable with the then available resources, and that the only remedy to avoid significant financial liability is the sale of the land.
2.2 The composition of the board of the Trust will be according to best practice guidelines and will have representatives from the EVDs, D/Ls and 3 people of “high standing” without any direct benefit from this particular EcoVillage.
2.3 The role of the board is to provide oversight in order to make sure the activities on the land adhere to the purpose of the Trust, the principles stated in the Trust constitution, the legal (and other) requirements of land ownership, and ensuring the value of the land is maintained (i.e. custodianship of the land as a whole).
- Entry/Exit membership
3.1 The EVDs will pay a once-off membership fee(MSF) for the opportunity to live on the land and participate in the EcoVillage Dwellers association. This money is used for common infrastructure required by the EVDs; the set up and maintenance thereof.
3.2.1 The MSF is set at circa ZAR 50,000.00 per 1st adult (18yrs or older) in a member unit. The 2nd adult in a member unit will contribute circa ZAR 35,000 (which is increased to the same as 1st adult if they subsequently choose to live independently of their initial member unit). Children of a member unit will, at the age of 18, pay the adjusted equivalent of 2nd adult whilst in their original member unit; and similarly pay the equivalent of 1st adult if they choose to form their own member unit. The EVD member is responsible for their own dwelling (house), and any enterprise structures required and agreed to by the EVD member association. Another option for this is, if an EVD leaves within the pioneer phase (first x year/s) they can only be paid back their MSF after pioneer phase.
3.2.2 In the future, once the project is established (post pioneer phase), the membership fee can be held in a separate account for a 6 month probationary period, during which, if the incumbent decides to leave, then they would be fully refunded their membership fees. After 6 months the MSF goes into the running account and is thenceforth non-refundable, to be used for the further development of the ecovillage.
3.3 For people with desirable skills and assets, deemed of benefit to the ecovillage, but with financial constraints, alternative methods of membership can be considered, such as individual loans, sweat equity, etc.
3.4 In time, the EVD Council (see point 6), may create a course for prospective members, to help them understand in a more embodied way the Eco Village Charter.
3.5 If, after the 6 month trial period, a prospective member or Family Unit wishes to stay but concerns are expressed by other EVD’s, the EVD Council will need to make a decision. If asked to leave, the membership fees will be reimbursed fully, in accordance with the 6 month probation period.
- Monthly Levy
4.1 Each family unit/ individual (FU/I) will pay a monthly levy (circa ZAR 2,000). After the pioneering phase, half goes to the running costs of the land and the project, and half into a specific bank account for the repayments / disaster fund (see 1.3.1), run by the Trust.
- Rental of assets from the “commons”
5.1 If FU/I want to stay in accommodation supplied by the ECV, or to build a structure on the land (i.e. a house or a workshop) or use a resource in such a way that it inhibits other EVDs using that resource freely, then that FU/I needs to pay rent to the Common fund for that right.
5.2 The amount of rental to be paid for each asset will be agreed upon by the EVD Council. A council process would be followed where an asset is sought after by more than 1 person.
- EcoVillage Dwellers Council
6.1 A decision-making council (EVD Council) is formed from members. This council is responsible for the development, management, maintenance of the land, buildings, people and animals, and all activities.
6.2 The communication and relationships between elected members and the EVD’s as a whole, will be carefully aligned with the principles in ‘Our Eco Village’ charter.
6.3 The EVD Council will have representatives on the board of the Trust
6.4 The EVD Council will create various groups (such as Water Management, Farming, Building, Admin, Celebration, etc) that focus on their tasks, but report back to the Council.
6.5 The Council will operate with rotational leadership and members for a period of time collectively agreed upon, or at the Eco Village Dwellers discretion.
6.6 EVD Council will manage its own bank accounts and decide on memberships.
- Family Unit/Individual accommodation
7.1 A family unit/Individual (FU/I) can be 1 – 6 people. The adults of a FU/I will be members.
7.2 Each FU/I will choose a piece of land or accommodation option from what is available, in accordance with the zoning for the land done through permaculture/ holistic design.
7.3 A monthly rental amount for the right to use the land from the commons will be agreed upon between the FU/I and the EVD Council.
7.4 The monthly rentals will be reviewed for all FU/Is on an annual basis by the EVD Council.
7.5 The monthly rentals can also contribute to paying back a loan by D/I after the pioneering phase.
7.6 The FU/I cannot own the land they are on, but does own the structure/improvements they build on that land. If they ever want to leave the project it is these improvements that they can sell on to a
7.7 FU/I’s can live either full time, part time, or occasionally visit the Eco Village. However, the FU/I does not pay less membership, levies or rental, if living part time or occasionally at the Eco Village.
7.8 A healthy balance between full time, part time, and occasional members will need to be considered by the EVD Council, when considering prospective members.
- Businesses and Projects
8.1 Different businesses with different models will be set up. Some may be run by one person, others by a small collective of people, or others run by the Eco Village Collective as a whole.
8.2 If a business requires communal land/assets (not running from one’s own homestead), this will be leased from the Eco Village, paying a monthly rental to the Common Fund, and this is reviewed on an annual basis by the EVD Council.
8.3 The monthly rental can contribute towards paying back loans by D/I’s after the pioneering phase.
8.4 People may live in the Village, working remotely at outside work.
8.5 As our businesses grow, and more Dwellers buy in, with the necessary infrastructure already in place, money is then put aside to pay back our investors, and put towards seed funding or loans for other projects within the EcoVillage.
8.6 Seed funding or loans can also be made available for new Eco Village projects.
8.7 Alternative currencies will also be used to help us collaborate and co-create.
8.8 All businesses and projects are to follow the principles set out in the ‘Our Eco Village’ Charter (Vision document). In particular, all formalised agreements/negotiations/contracts, between the various entities and individuals attached to this project, will be transparent for any D/I, Trustee, or Eco Village Dweller to see.