The Better Earth Institute

Month: February, 2017

Addressing Homelessness/Low Income Without Charity

I have not yet achieved my goal of providing low cost housing, but I have looked into land costs, shelter, and infrastructure.

It appears that the same economic rules apply to constructing homes andbuying land as do to most commodities – the more you buy in the fewer transactions the better your per unit cost.

We live in relatively more expensive neighborhoods here. But the rules still apply – if many people join together to say invest in building an apartment complex instead of each individual waiting to buy until after its completion – they can save tremendously.

However, many people have nearly no cash and no credit so buying an apartment here even at 50% off (not sure what the markup is on apartments in a large building are), would still not be feasible.

However, the USA has plenty of areas including places within a few hours drive of here where standard neighborhood size parcels of land could cost as little as $500. (Say a fifth of an acre at $2,500 an acre) In actuality there are properties selling for around $5,000,000 for 5,000 acres ($1,000 per acre). I understand these properties are usually not already legally set up for parceling – but all this would require is sufficient local support (counties signing off on it).

So factually, we could say that land costs $200-$500 for an ample site in rural California. Infrastructure may or may not cost a lot more per site depending. I personally do not believe in the inherent superiority of indoor plumbing and electricity – especially not when cost efficiency and sustainability are key overall – this could be up to the individuals.

I believe we will get great returns by truly looking into what a minimalist design for home and shelter looks like – and to legalize it for year round living; currently, I believe in all counties in California, to legally live somewhere year round on property one owns you must have a legal residence which conforms to a number of standards.

I don’t know exactly what the least expensive way to meet the current standards are – but I believe that working on whatever will meet those standards as inexpensively and eco friendly as possible will yield the most benefits for the most people without having to involve any charity whatsoever – while facilitating that which many charities and municipalities aspire to do – help the less fortunate or less economically able achieve land and/or home ownership.

At the same time, I think we would gain to modify zoning at least in certain areas so that people could live in simpler shelters of their choosing provided they abide by some kind of health/environmental standards.

I think we need to facilitate access to the simpler ways of living our ancestors lived. If a person wants to work the land and get the fruit of their labor and not be an employee for life – they need access to land.

It’s hard to provide value to others, but it’s not necessarily hard to provide value for yourself – gathering food, growing food, building simple shelter, hunting, fishing – these are skills most people can employ if they have access to land.

It’s harder to sell services or products especially when you have to compete with others.

So for a lot of people who are competing and making it… but still feel competitive and a loss of power when their money goes somewhere they don’t expect to get a return from… it makes sense why many charities don’t attract sustained interest. Especially here… it costs $1000 just for a single room for a month in a lot of places here. That money could buy an acre of land elsewhere.

So I would propose building a village that prioritizes efficient design and truly low cost living – aiming for something like less than $5,000 per entire unit of legitimate shelter and land. I’m rather confident that a budget of say $200,000,000 could easily facilitate 40,000 sustainable elegant very simple homes in an area within 4 hours of here.

Perhaps there will be less paved roads in this town, and there will not be six electric sockets in each room, less insulation, and much smaller than 1,500 square feet per home, but I believe it will be an awesome opportunity for those living there and a great return on investment. Buyers could also potentially get loans with $1,000 down and pay like $50 a month or so.

If people lived there in a similar density as Menlo Park or Palo Alto – the land cost might be $5,000,000 for 5,000 acres (and have plenty of open space) and leave $195,000,000 for homes.

So… what can $195 million do if you have 5,000 acres paid off and you want to maximize adequate simple sustainable homes/shelters and minimize cost/materials/pollution?

That’s the question I would like to see the experts answer.

Btw, as I understand it the city of SF spent around $241,000,000 in one year on their homeless problem of around 6-7,000 people.

So the money is here and already being spent on an annual basis – as some kind of charity of sorts.

The idea I describe doesn’t require charity – but I could see a type of charity where people who do have $5,000 or much more could help make the commitment to the initial purchases and contracts so that communication can occur with counties and builders and planners of infrastructure etc… it may take a while to get commitments from say 40,000 people to put down $5,000 each – but I have no doubt that if a legal year round residence were available in California for $5,000 there would be no problem whatsoever selling 40,000 units.

So again, the question is what can $5,000 really do per unit if part of some huge construction deal?

Or even without some big deal. If we ignore zoning for a second and just think of ideal function and cost effectiveness – what can we get? What can people make?

School bus renovation with rain catchment and solar shower? That sounds cool to me!


I had a dream that I now interpret a certain way. In the dream I thought about this same plan I have discussed for years now – to put together a string of properties that lay less than day’s distance between them – by walking, bicycling, or some other fossil-fuel free method. And on each property to have some kind of natural shelter and gardening taking place. Many people join and walk or cycle or whatever this shared path and it connects the world.
In the dream, I attempt to draw the map of the west coast, but then realize the map is of the east coast and New York and then I realize it connects to North Dakota.
So here’s my thought:
A string of properties from wherever to the DAPL spot so that people can travel to this spot WITHOUT fossil fuels. And that their travels will actually bring life to the spots they touch instead of trash and throw away failed activism where we say “WE WANT OIL, but bring it around the back hush hush – not right to the front”
Interestingly, Bismarck North Dakota sits around 1,600 miles from San Francisco. It is also around 1,600 miles from Los Angeles. It is also around 1,600 miles from New York city. It is also around 1,600 miles from New Orleans. It is also around 1,600 miles from Atlanta, Georgia.
At the most, if people were to purchase the string of properties from one center to Bismarck, the cost would be $800,000 – a string of 160 $5,000 properties. Thus each property could average 10 miles of distance from place to place.
If the properties were more distant from each other say 30 miles (a reasonable travel by bicycle for most reasonably fit people), the total initial cost of this project would be around $266,000 – to purchase a string of properties from a city center such as NYC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans, or San Antonio (just 1,400 miles away).
There will at least be a cost for property tax and possibly other local fees. On an annual basis, it would be good to attempt to generate at least $100,000.
I believe that many people would pay $1,000 annually to have access to a string of 50+ campsites and community gardens across the country not only for the thrill of taking part in this endeavor, but in the genuine value of having a method of transportation and ability to camp in this exciting way.
I also believe that people who would do this would often wish to have their friends or partners join them. So they could easily come in 2’s or more.
Furthermore, with strict rules on “pack it in pack it out” an application process that ensures we find people who have true commitments to green living – we can see to it that compost piles grow on each spot instead of bad trash – and see this eventually leading to a blossoming in fertility.
The next level of investment can occur for the addition of some basic amenities and improvements such as: composting toilet(s),water catchment and storage, planting plants that will provide value, and do not require much if any human input of nutrients, and secure storage containers for a variety of goods ranging from food to tools to musical instruments.
Once this next level gets proven, we can add residences.
Basically need 100 people with around $3,500 each and ability to pay $1,000 annually to connect each string.
Recap: String of minimal cost rural properties facilitating camping/cycling/sustainable travel across the country.