The Bruns Ecovillage, close to Mullumbimby is an ambitious plan to establish cluster housing with shared communal assets, off-grid power, a working farm, school, aquatic centre, conference/wellness/community centres and a light commercial/industrial area. They’ve recently launched their website and vision after three years of planning and research.
I was reminded of the early days of the Aldinga Arts Ecovillage (AAEV) that commenced with similar vision, 20 years ago, and was initiated by a similarly inspiring group of founders. John Maitland was one of the founding members and discusses the forward thinking that went into establishing AAEV.
Bruns has learned from some of the pioneering ecovillages: they’re offering a 14 month training program based on the internationally accredited Gaia Education model requiring intending residents to undertake the course before registering interest in the ecovillage. I’m not sure if AAEV would have been viable had it required this degree of time commitment before registering interest. The market in South Australia is so much smaller. What happened at Aldinga is that the core group formed but once land was sold, a new community emerged and the vision was taken in new directions. The core ethos of the AAEV emerged and continues to be a reminder of our origins: caring for the earth; caring for people, and working creatively together.
Twenty years down the track Living Not Beige commenced construction of its first cluster housing development at AAEV. The community is indeed a vibrant, connected and caring ecovillage. It continues to evolve in response to its residents and the world around it. It’s currently fundraising for a central hub building – something that is generally regarded as being essential to supporting an ecovillage community and its vision.
The Bruns is to be established via a not-for-profit community land trust. That’s exciting. The Community Land Trust model challenges traditional notions of land as a commodity and is more akin to the way Aboriginal people relate to land as being community rather than individually owned. It is land value rather than house values that contribute most to the pressures on housing affordability. Remove the ability for land to be held in private ownership and you remove the major obstacle to affordable housing. Instead, the wealth inherent in land value remains with the community over the long term. The Bruns is calling for investors to invest in the Land Trust. This means that ownership will extend beyond those living there. So it’s an interesting way to proceed and will be fascinating to watch what happens.
I haven’t heard of any other CLT for housing in Australia though they’ve been mooted as an alternative tenure. Fingers crossed The Bruns may be able to demonstrate a viable way to achieve equitable, affordable and sustainable housing.