Breaking News: Collective Housing Opportunity?

I learned yesterday from my friend Heather that there’s a UNCA professor who is taking her family to Chile for a year, and needs someone to look after and live in her home while they’re gone.

Heather told her about me and my ideas about collective housing. If I understand Heather correctly, the professor is interested in talking to me about running a “test” of my collective housing idea, in her home, for one year.

There’s plenty of obvious reasons this might not work out. Her yard might not be cat safe, her home not something I’m interested in. She might not wish to entrust her home to what could turn out to be a revolving crew of strangers.

I might not be interested in taking on a $1200 monthly rent payment I could be stuck with if my cohorts jump ship. And it remains to be seen if I can even dig up, in one month, the required number of people I trust enough to invite to try this endeavor with me.

But if it does work out, I’ll get to try something fast becoming less of a dream and more of a damn good idea. And for a whole year.

My journalism final project I turned in this week was about communal housing. I interviewed a 58-year-old Greensboro woman, Liz Seymour, whose entire household works part time because they save so much from living communally they have no need of full time work. She blew my mind with what she had to say.

Her monthly food bill is $40. When her teenaged son still lived at home, she supported the both of them comfortably on $500 a month.

“Rent” in her collective house is based on bedroom size. Seymour’s share comes to around $330 a month, and includes a mortgage payment, household insurance, property taxes, electricity, water, gas, wireless internet, phone, a household fund for bulk foods (rice, olive oil) and a maintenance fund for upkeep.

Add in food expenses at 40 bucks, and you’ve got over $100 a month of disposable income. With only $500 a month coming in!

I easily spend more than $40 a week on food, and as I’ve posted about often, am constantly overwhelmed by keeping a house and yard neat and in good repair without a lick of help, while trying to put myself through school and work part time as a writer.

“For me, a household of friends — more loosely bound than a family but tied together by loyalty, affinity and shared space — satisfies a need for kinship and companionship that did not end when my family did.”

– Liz Seymour, Greensboro anarcho-commune resident, in the New York Times

“Because we live inexpensively we have more time, which means that we don’t have to fall back on the conveniences that people sometimes have to use when they are pressed for time: we can walk or ride bikes instead of drive, we can hang our clothes on the line instead of dry them in the dryer, we can garden and collect rainwater, and cook from scratch instead of using convenience foods.”

– Liz Seymour in an email interview with me

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