Need for Land Sharing
The challenge of high land costs is an obstacle to deep green home ownership. Buyers spend so much on land, they turn to shortcuts in their home investment. In the current market, even many university educated professionals may not see the possibility of home ownership in their lifetime. Land is particularly out of price range for those working in service work and sustainability initiatives. Those in their 20’s to 40’s working in front line social service positions, hospitality, retail and many sustainability, social justice and other important careers are currently unlikely to be able to own a home.
Potential Benefits of Land Sharing Resources
Land sharing makes the effort and cost of home ownership more practically and financially attainable. By reducing the risk factors and making land sharing attainable, a land sharing toolkit can enable two households to share resources so they can afford a better quality, greener home, shared sustainable energy, sustainable waste management systems, shared food production and the potential of other collaborative opportunities as well.
Sensible Co-Ownership Options
No replicable, comprehensive model for land partners with separately owned dwellings, currently exists. Today, the most common form of co-ownership for two partners is joint ownership (i.e.’tenants in common’). This structure is intended for family members in the same home. It does not suit the goals of this project as both the homes and land are jointly owned and so it is problematic.
Joint financial and legal liability significantly limits financing and insurance options and makes resale and transfer issues difficult. Also, co-consent is required for most decisions. With such limited autonomy there is ample room for conflict and formal governance and decision-making structures are rarely in place. As a result the failure rates and related personal and financial losses are high.
In contrast, a team-designed comprehensive model can protect partner investment and quality of life. Such an agreement can clearly address exclusive and common property, governance, rights and responsibilities, as well as transfer agreements, resale process, estate planning, and ‘exit plans’. It can separate each partner’s financing and liability and establish foundations for a happy balance of inter-reliance, collaboration, autonomy and privacy.
Overcoming Barriers to Land Sharing
The main barriers to land partnerships today can be summarized as follows:
- limited financing and insurance options
- problems of shared debt and liability for construction and home mortgages (i.e. joint/partitioned mortgages)
- inadequate planning for transfer, resale and bequeathment
- co-consent required for most decisions
- lack of clarity regarding exclusive and common areas
- limited autonomy and conflict
- inadequate written agreements and formal decision-making processes
In addition to meeting the respective needs of the land partners, there are multiple other interests and limitations to consider. To learn about the Eco Healthy Homes Land Partnership Model for more information.
In contrast to the hope-for-the-best, agreement; an intelligently designed legal, financial and governance structure can protect the investment and quality of life of both partners. It can address exclusive and common property, governance and rights and responsibilities, as well as transfer agreements, resale process, estate planning, and ‘exit plans’. It can separate each partner’s financing and liability and enable a happy balance of inter-reliance, collaboration, autonomy and privacy.
Enabling affordable home ownership
In 2010, just over 23% of renter and 9% of owner households in the Capital Regional District spent 50% or more of their monthly household income on shelter costs, on par with rates for BC and Canada. Since then, house prices in urban BC have sharply increased.
Spending less than 30% is considered affordable. Land sharing is a logical approach to increasing the affordability of home ownership. Through land sharing, homebuyers may not only better afford to buy a home, but also afford a more sustainable, better quality home. Land sharing can also facilitate more affordable sustainability at the household level through shared investment in sustainable energy, water, and waste management systems. Linking to the issue of affordability, Harmony Habitat’s preliminary research and consultations have confirmed the need for non-profit legal resources to help people share land in Canada.
Increasing rates of home ownership
The PlanH report, implemented by BC Healthy Communities Society, states that “A healthy balance of housing (including a diversity of forms, densities, and tenures) is a key component of a healthy and resilient local economy, and an attractant to new progressive firms and investors, and skilled workers to come to the community.”
Ownership can offer more choice in healthy, green housing than renting can. Current construction norms and home energy use result in high costs to health and the environment. Also, most homes offer little security from the risks of severe wind, earthquake, fire, service interruptions and volatile fuel prices. They are high maintenance and short-lived. Today, construction waste (often toxic) makes up as much as 40% of landfill waste.
Home ownership and long-term tenure offers residents increased security and stability, and the greatest opportunity to choose healthy, resilient, environmentally responsible design and technology options in their housing.
Benefits of Home Ownership
A report by the US Realtor Association points to studies that show how, making ownership more attainable can contribute to social connectivity and community engagement. Frequent moves in the rental market can uproot community relationships and force great effort and adjustment and reducing meaningful community engagement. In contrast, “Homeownership boosts the educational performance of children, induces higher participation in civic and volunteering activity, improves health care outcomes, lowers crime rates and lessens welfare dependency.” It also indicates that home ownership has a positive impact on:
- sense of agency and control in ones life
- the ability to make decisions about their home environment and contributing to positive change
- satisfaction with life and self-esteem, and grow perceived control over their lives (controlled for income levels)
- stability of residency
- property care and property values
Increasing Social Connectivity
Many sociology studies have found that residential stability strengthens social ties with neighbors. Other research has focused on how mobility diminishes the depth of social ties because there is less time to build long-term relationships. When neighbours know and trust each other, streets are safer, people are healthier and happier, our children do better in school, there is less bullying and less discrimination. We are simply better off in many of the ways that matter.”
“Patterns of neighbourhood connections are pretty much set after a few years,” says a report by Realty Times. “People who have lived in their neighbourhood for 20 years are no more likely to socialize with neighbours than those living in the neighbourhood for three years.” A report by Plan H BC Community Health supports similar conclusions.
For research we consulted regarding the importance of stable, socially connected housing, please see this page.
For more about Eco Healthy Homes Land Partnership Model , see this page.
For the report from the US Realtors Association about the benefits of home ownership and stable residency, see this page.