Introduction to Ecovillage DC

Ecovillage DC is:
collectively owned
rental housing,
neighborhood commons,
and community food business.

Click here to learn more about our project.

How does Ecovillage DC work?

Ecovillage DC is based on collective ownership and cooperative self-governance. Our organization consists principally in an LLC, run as a cooperative. The LLC buys adjacent properties, as it is able, within and not exceeding the scale of one city block. People become partners by buying ownership stake in the LLC and/or by renting its housing or commercial space. SAM_1378One may be an Ecovillage DC member by tenancy without ownership, ownership without tenancy, or ideally by ownership and tenancy both.

Everyone including enterprises housed in Ecovillage properties are legally renters, paying the co-op LLC as the ‘landlord’ each month and protected by DC’s robust tenancy laws. Membership may move to provide some housing and some commercial space at below-market rent to foster a diverse community and economy, with the understanding that Ecovillage DC rents must on average approximate market pricing in the DC area as a whole. Some affordable housing may be subsidized by grants and tax exemptions via a nonprofit arm dedicated to this charitable purpose.

The property will be managed with the goal of maintaining a 3% to 5% monthly profit from rental proceeds less costs, which will be distributed as regular dividends to all Ecovillage LLC partners proportional to the ownership stake of each. We aim to have sufficient shareholders that bank debt will be unnecessary, and to yield reliable return on investment for all owners comparable to or slightly better than garden-variety investment instruments.

Ecovillage DC is seeking to locate in a neighborhood where the market cost of owning is relatively low compared to the market cost of renting. Further, our long-term intention is to maintain price predictability, with only scheduled incremental adjustments, for all tenants. Ecovillage DC thus is both a stable community for families and an investment opportunity to do real good by the community.

An investment in Ecovillage DC means investing in making Washington, DC a more healthy, livable and just city, based on a common vision for fostering sustainable, healthy, diverse, and thriving community.

 How will it look?

Housing in Ecovillage DC is conceived as independent residential units. This is not single group house, but rather neighboring units to be cooperatively owned and managed together while inhabited privately.  There may be group residency (e.g., shared group/co-op house) in some units, but many Ecovillage DC units will be single-household private space, and look like “normal” houses or apartments. In addition to the collective ownership model, having shared amenities as part of the ‘commons’ makes an Ecovillage DC unit different.

Consider what a block would look like with combined backyards, solar panels on a microgrid, rain collection between units and gardens between homes, garage spaces (and cars) shared, a large communal vegetable garden and playground, a tool library, entertainment room, a “guest house” apartment… all of these and more are part of our vision for what the “commons” entails.

In terms of ‘community’, the Ecovillage also will function differently from many urban neighborhoods, HOAs, and condo associations — by starting from a shared community vision and values we develop connections and interactions with each other going well beyond “good morning” nods as we pass each other on the street.  We know each other, because we share space and resources and significant decision-making together, sometimes through simple potluck meals or gardening together, other times by cooperatively managing our collective property or guiding our commercial tenants toward harmony with the neighborhood and success in their business.

 Where will it be?

A final location has not yet been selected. Our selection process is driven both by real estate data as well as by outreach with communities and supportive elected officials. Our GIS working group has analyzed DC zoning, housing prices, rental prices, and other variables.  dc-smds-analysis-north dc-smds-analysis-south

Of particular interest are the Brentwood, Eckington, and southern Brookland neighborhoods in Ward 5; Lily Ponds and Deanwood in Ward 7; and Barry Farms and Anacostia in Ward 8. Particularly in Ward 5, District government has expressed an interest in “transforming” underutilized land zoned for industrial, manufacturing, and commercial uses in proximity to residential neighborhoods with relatively depressed local economies.

The ideal location entails a block with row-houses, warehouse industrial and/or manufacturing space, and a modest amount of frontage suitable for neighborhood retail. It is a priority to locate in a neighborhood where this initiative is welcome, rather than to attempt imposing it upon a community. We are looking for a neighborhood with “good bones” architecturally–we value retrofit rather than tear-down approaches to urban revitalization, both for the preservation of neighborhood history and also to maximize existing residents’ opportunity to stay in place. Most importantly, we seek a location where we can grow into a local asset and a model for sustainable community development across DC, planting seeds of healthy food systems, environmental education, and diverse, connected neighborhoods.

 Why do we need an Ecovillage in DC?

Ecovillage DC offers a viable alternative to the characterless high-rise “mixed-use” condo development model that generates profit for real estate developers much more than wealth accumulation within the neighborhood. The collective ownership model offers a way for existing neighborhood residents to continue living in their neighborhoods by buying into a price-stable, well-managed block cooperative, rather than being bought out or priced out of their neighborhoods as prices and taxes skyrocket. Meanwhile, through creative, incremental retrofit of its residential properties, Ecovillage DC creates new housing without forcing mass displacement of existing communities or the destruction of our city’s architectural heritage.

Ecovillage DC provides an urgently needed shift from short-term to long-term investment in our city’s neighborhoods. It creates a vehicle for investment in a block, not just one property, including housing and commerce, over a long time horizon. Large-scale investment in ecologically sustainable built infrastructure, which is rarely profitable for real estate developers and often inaccessible to individual homeowners, will realize significant profits for Ecovillage DC’s owners over decades. By the same token, because Ecovillage DC’s collective ownership structure is intended to hold properties for generations to come, allowing all residents including owners to come and go without flipping their homes, housing prices within the Ecovillage will remain stable over time.

Typical neighborhood “renewal” involves such drastic changes to local costs, politics, and architecture, the most common effect is the harmful mass displacement of existing communities. Ecovillage DC’s collective ownership and cooperative governance structures will enable a more incremental and community-guided evolution as new residents and businesses are integrated, fostering diversity and strong social networks to sustain the community over time. Ecovillage DC envisions people of all ages, races, incomes, professions, sexual orientations, abilities, and religious and ethnic backgrounds living and self-governing in a thriving, sustainable community.

 

What is the timeline?

We currently have a strong ‘core’ group, who have since mid-2012 been assembling the business plan, mission and vision statements, governance guidelines, media materials, and legal, market, and political research necessary for Ecovillage DC to become reality. Incorporation of the LLC and nonprofit entities is to be completed by the end of 2013. Some of our core members plan to move into our final neighborhood selection by the start of 2014, in order to begin on-the-ground grassroots organizing. Outreach efforts to investors, residents, business partners, professional support, and existing neighborhood leaders is ongoing and will continue through 2014. Once sufficient capital is committed we can move quickly on identifying and acquiring properties, and conducting renovations as needed. The property acquisition phase should be underway by mid- to late-2014.

Logo1.pngMission

Ecovillage DC is an urban place where we collectively steward the long-term sustainability of our own housing, environment, sustenance, and wealth.

The Basics

The “Eco” (from the Greek for “home”) in “Ecovillage” points to the deep interdependence between ecology and economy, which we manifest with three pillars:

  1. collective ownership, of residential, commercial, and manufacturing properties;
  2. shared commons, including physical space, services, food-related resources, and knowledge; and
  3. social enterprise focused on food production, preparation, and retail, including commercial and cooperative activity aimed at fulfilling social and nutritional needs while producing wealth and creating jobs within the local community.

We aim to be a living model for social, economic, and ecological justice and sustainability.

Our Mission

Ecovillage DC is an urban place where we collectively steward the long-term sustainability of our own housing, environment, sustenance, and wealth.