The following are some thoughts and ideas about the types of buildings and the costs involved in realising our eco co-housing community. This is based on creating 10 residential units of varying sizes to accommodate about 15 resident adults and several children as well as guests, visitors and possibly course participants.

The property we want to buy would hopefully include most of the following buildings:

  • Large house with about 6 bedrooms and 3 large reception rooms as well as a kitchen
  • Annex and/or ancillary accommodation
  • Self-contained (holiday let) cottages preferably with full residential planning permission (pp) or ancillary use.
  • Traditional barns with/without pp suitable for conversion (preferably with year round or residential pp)
  • Caravans or mobile homes
  • Modern farm buildings to be used for livestock, storage, conversion into offices, business units, communal buildings and/or studios and workshops.

First stage

Accommodation in the main house would have to be shared at least initially and possibly divided into separate units later (consisting of one bedroom with ensuite bathroom and lounge/dining room with small kitchenette) with shared use of the main kitchen and other communal spaces. The ground floor rooms would be used as communal spaces for shared meals, social gatherings, meetings, etc. In addition, a bedroom could be reserved for the guests of residents of the main house, depending on layout, size, etc.

Other buildings already in use as residential accommodation would be adapted, altered, upgraded, insulated, etc. to meet high sustainability standards depending on what capital is available to do this. We may have to buy several caravans to supplement our accommodation as a temporary measure depending on how many residents are living on site. It may be advisable to continue to let out any holiday cottages already on the site in order to supplement our income.

Second stage

We would only be able to start on the second stage of converting traditional farm buildings when we have sufficient capital and planning permission if this is not already in place. The second stage could consist of:

  • converting traditional farm buildings such as barns
  • replacing caravans with log cabins or something similar depending on their planning status
  • new builds such as cob/straw bale, possibly used as ancillary accommodation for guests and visitors depending on whether we could get the necessary planning permission.

Other communal space

A shared utility room housing washing machines, indoor drying facilities, freezers, etc. could be sited in an outbuilding as well as frost free storage space for crops and other foods. Other indoor communal space could be housed in adapted modern farm buildings unsuitable for residential use or in new build cob and/or straw bale buildings.

Rough costings

Rough calculations have been made on several different properties currently on the market to get an idea of the costs involved. These estimates include purchasing the property, converting and altering the existing buildings to high sustainability standards, especially insulation, as well as alternative energy installations. Based on a total of 10 units of varying sizes, this works out at an average of approx. £150,000 per unit, ranging from approx. £80,000 for one person in a shared house to £200,000 for a two-bedroom self-contained house. A larger house for a family with children is estimated to cost about £250,000.

A service charge for the use of communal space and land plus maintenance of both buildings and land will have to be added to this. Utilities and council tax will be charged separately.

How accommodation, etc is paid for to some extent depends on the legal structure adopted but there will be opportunities for renting and/or ‘ownership’ possibly in the form of ‘loan stock’ where interest on loan stock is set off against rent, etc.

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