Rural co-housing - Let's start building tiny house villages!

I grew up in the suburbs of London. We lived in a traditional semi-detached english home and most activities involved the car. We would drive or take the bus to school. We would drive to shop. We would drive to do sports. We would even drive to the park. We barely knew our neighbours and there was almost no sense of community.

The logic behind this suburban lifestyle was built around the assumption that every family needs space for two cars, a private garden with a shed, 4-5 bedrooms, a kitchen conservatory, a living with the option of an additional dining room. The nuclear family unit was the basis for how we design most of the suburban town houses that exist across the UK.

Families would invest their entire life savings to lock themselves into a lifestyle that involves endless driving and commuting, with oversized homes designed to maximise privacy and minimise any points of community interaction. Everyone lives alone in their rooms. The housework escalates so you hire a cleaner and then a gardener when you get tired of mowing the lawn. The cost of living grows and making money to support this consumption-based lifestyle becomes the priority.

Personally, this model of living in a suburban car-centric nuclear family home feels more like a nightmare than a vision of success that we should be aspiring to. Owning more stuff and space doesn’t give us wealth. True wealth is having the time to do the things we enjoy with the people we love. The lifestyle that society has build for us doesn’t make sense anymore. Surely, there has to be a better way?

During these past lockdown months I have been ‘Zooming’ with a lot of people and communities across the world who are looking to buy land and start their own ‘village building’ project. Some of us are focussing on rural co-housing and eco-tourism. Some of us are working on coliving, placemaking and urban developments. Some of us are doing both. The golden thread is that we all share this desire to live with more sustainability, community, affordability, health / wellness and connection to nature. We are asking similar questions and working on similar projects.

This realisation has inspired two projects.

We are collaborating with Waking Life to host a Village Builders Gathering next year in Portugal. This will be a week-long event that combines festival magic with a common purpose: to build a network of doers who share our passion for building and sustainability. We envision this as a blended unconference event, combining pre-event online connection & conversation, 1 week together and post-event follow-up.

This event will be an opportunity for us to get our hands dirty (build, dig, plant etc) as well as dive into the specific challenges and opportunities that come with starting, sustaining and scale a village building project. The purpose behind our event is to bring the builders together in a unique and inspiring place; to create important bonds and relationships so this movement is truly cooperative rather than competitive.

The other project that I have been working on during lockdown is launching a new social enterprise called Circular UK in partnership with Stephen Burtt, who is both a farmer in Peterborough and a serial entrepreneur and investor. Circular UK is the parent company behind House of Transformation and we are also planning to set up two new ventures called Wild Hotel & Circular Homes with Toby Diggens, a marine biologist and landscape architect who runs Digg&Co.

Wild Hotel is a response to the growing demand for ‘glamping’ that COVID has accelerated as urban dwellers decide to escape to the countryside rather than booking a holiday abroad. We envisage more and more people investing in building their own cabins and tiny homes on farmland that is being ‘rewilded’ as farmers transition from unsustainable farming practices towards more regenerative mixed use business models that include environmental stewardship, permaculture and ecotourism.