This brief article explores the topic of how a small house community might be governed. There may not be a best method of governance, but this document explores what different approaches may have to offer.
Types of Governance
Community governance generally falls into two models:
- Central Governance and Ownership. There are many examples of centrally owned and managed communities. These are generally managed by property owners in the context of a business negotiation and contract. A camp ground, trailer court, or apartment building would be an example. The people who belong to the community may have varying degrees of influence and control, but ultimately the person or entity that owns the property will have the greatest influence.
- Distributed Governance and Ownership. In a distributed governance system, members of the community have a more democratic ownership and influence. A free marketplace system of distributive capitalism* is almost required for this form of governance to work. In other words, when you own your home and property within a community you’ll have greater influence than if you’re renting.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Each type of governance model has benefits and drawbacks.
- Central Governance and Ownership. Most of us have enjoyed the positive experience of renting an apartment or home. The obvious benefit of such an arrangement is the convenience found in not having to maintain the property (shoveling snow, mowing grass, repairs, and maintenance). Those wanting the greatest freedom to pickup and move find renting a freeing experience. The drawback is that money spent on housing does not build equity, and if the landlord isn’t thoughtful and efficient, the quality of life may be much less than what you’d create on your own.
- Distributed Governance and Ownership. When you own your home, and the property it is on (or even if you rent the land), you have greater control over your environment. In a community setting, like being an equal shareholder of a company, you have equal ownership. Condominium associations are similar to a self-governed entity where the land is equally shared. Other community models could include separate individuals purchasing land together, and then building on it. Or, a similar group of individuals could all purchase adjoining parcels, and then build on those properties. Then shared community facilities could be owned and managed by all, such as green space, recreation area, laundry facilities, large kitchen and event area. If you find yourself continually outnumbered by the majority voting on community issues, you may need to move elsewhere. Simply having a share of a community doesn’t always means you’ll get your way.
Deciding the Right Governance Model for You
Either of the above models would be a good choice, depending on the person. Over time, the same person may find one model more suitable than another as their own needs and interests change. Exploring questions identified by the factors above will help, such as how much control you’d like to have over your own land and property. Also, how willing are you to be socially engaged and somewhat interdependent upon the lives of others. Having a free-standing home on your own property without any responsibility to a condo association, neighborhood association, or other governance group would provide the greatest freedom in that regard.
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* Distributive Capitalism is an economic system where people have relatively equal ownership of property and business and this avoids a minority of people exploiting the majority of people.