Occupy Madison, Inc. has no paid staff. We are a small group of volunteers, 100% funded by donations. Most of us have full-time jobs unrelated to our participation in OM Inc. We would LOVE to help others get started, but are overwhelmed by the global interest in our project and our very real need to manage our own affairs. Unfortunately, there is no ready guidebook for starting a tiny house village. We are quite literally making things up as we go. As we learn what works for us (and what doesn’t!), we will be only too happy to share what we have learned.
Please feel free to join the Village Collaborative on Facebook where people from several communities around the county share information and can answer questions. If you sign up below, we will try to get you information in the future as it becomes available. If you would like to visit OM Village in person, please make arrangements by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also recommend the Village Collaborative and Tent City Urbanism by Andrew Heben who has written extensively about tent cities and tiny house villages and works with Opportunity Village in Eugene Oregon.
Below is a rough outline of points to consider when getting started in your community – likely to change as people ask us more questions. It is important to note that every community will have its own unique combination of challenges to overcome–social, cultural, financial and legal–so strategies that worked for us will not necessarily be applicable in your particular situation. We will add links as we can.
1. Find people in your community that are interested in creating a tiny house village. Take an inventory of your collective talents. Give yourselves time to get to know each other and to learn to function well together. Don’t rush the process. What material and financial resources does your group have? What social and potitical connections do you have in your local community? Determine what kind of group you want to be (nonprofit, cooperative, community group). Will you need 501(c)3 status for fundraising purposes?
2. What are the limitations on the size of your tiny house village? How large do you want your community to be? What size will be realistically manageable for the group?
3. Can someone donate land? Can you raise funds to buy land? Can you rent from the government for $1? What kind of zoning requirements will you have? Zoning laws are perhaps the single biggest obstacle to creating a tiny house village. Working through existing zoning restrictions is likely to require lots of meetings with city/county planning officials.
4. How will the community be governed? Will the selection of residents be based on need or active participation? What kind of community rules and agreements will there be? Who will make them? How will rules be enforced?
5. What kind of houses do you want to create? Storage containers, pallets, recycled materials, standard construction? We found that aesthetic considerations were critical for gaining public support. How big can/should they be? Will they have plumbing, electricity, etc?
6. How much of the work can be done by volunteers? Will you need to hire an architect or building trade professionals (contractors, electricians, plumbers, roofers, etc.)?
7. Unless members of your group are independently wealthy, be prepared to host lots of fundraising events. How do the members of your group feel about accepting government money or corporate sponsorship? There are many grants and awards available for creative projects, so individuals with grantwriting skills can also be very helpful.
8. How will you convince the local community that your village will not create more problems than it will solve? We found that listening to neighborhood concerns about safety, noise, etc. enabled us to refine our plans and reduce public anxiety about our project.
9. Physical construction of the tiny houses is actually the easiest part.