Bruns Eco Village - Brunswick Heads

“Wisdom begins in wonder.”

Socrates

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Have some questions?

Below is a compilation of the various questions we have been asked about Bruns Eco Village. We hope this gives you a comprehensive overview of the proposed village. If you have any further questions please send them to askbev@brunsecovillage.com.au.


Design Structure of the Eco Village

1. What physical structure will Bruns Eco Village take?

The model we propose is an eco village made up of housing clusters that each contains a number of dwellings and a common house. The eco village will have community orchards and gardens separating each cluster. There will be a community hub with a restaurant, a café and community space, a living sustainable school, a wellness precinct and a commercial area for business and light industrial use. All of this will be contained on a parcel of land of approximately 105 acres.

Each housing cluster or hamlet will have its own micro-community with a unique identity and shared values. A common area will provide combined resources for all to use.

All members of the community will benefit from the extensive community facilities, such as a school, gardens and natural areas that are managed by the co-op. Bruns Eco Village will be a truly sustainable village that utilises and recycles its waste within its boundaries, produces its own energy and food and provides a holistic living experience for the residents and the wider community.

Intentional clusters that cater for younger people, families and older people will be included to ensure the village provides inter-generational sustainable living.

2. To what extent can individuals have input on the design?

Participants of the Village Development Program will have a certain degree of design input in their cluster as well as the overall design of the village. To maintain efficiency and to work within a realistic budget, design will mainly be determined by the Bruns Eco Village architects.

3. What is the dwelling density of the village?

The land footprint and topography that is allocated to each cluster will have an overarching influence on dwelling density. Cluster design will also determine density to some extent. We are aware of people's varying needs for individual space and this will be considered in detail in the transition from public to private areas.

4. What kind of school is being built?

Bruns Eco Village is putting aside land within the co-op to build a school. We’re currently in conversation with John Stewart, (former Head of Green School Bali, educational disrupter, consultant and international speaker) to establish a progressive holistic educational campus within the eco village. This will consist of an alternative education model using sustainable and holistic practices.

Legal Structure of the Eco Village

5. What is the legal structure of the Bruns Eco Village?

The land is intended to be what is commonly known as a Community Land Trust (CLT) that will be run and maintained by a non-distributing co-operative. Bruns Eco Village is currently registered as an Incorporated Association with the intention of at the appropriate time, bringing the association under the provisions of the Co-operatives National Law.

6. What is a community land trust?

A community land trust (CLT) is a non-profit, community-based organisation that works to provide continuous affordable living opportunities. A CLT acquires land in order to remove it from the for-profit, real estate market. It is democratically controlled and uses the property it owns to provide benefits to its community and to make housing available to residents who couldn’t otherwise afford it.

The Alternative Ownership Model (AOM)

7. How does the proposed Alternative Ownership Model work?

The Bruns Eco Village is currently adopting an ownership model that involves long-term leases. Residents will apply for a lease of a dwelling from the Co-operative. It is anticipated that the leases will be life tenancies (a tenancy that is in place until the tenant dies or moves out). This will allow you, the resident, similar rights as ownership on the use of the dwelling as well as the ability to live within the eco village.

Residents will pay a monthly rental to the co-op for the term of their lease. The amount will depend on the size of house being leased. An initial bond will also be required.

Rents will not increase over the period of the lease. However it will be adjusted each year to match inflation levels (which is an average of around 2%).

The AOM provides security to you as a resident as the co-op can only change or remove the conditions of the model under extreme circumstances. If changes are being requested by the co-op you will be entitled to challenge them, as you would a broken lease in a tenancy arrangement.

As a resident you can also be an investor in the village co-op. This gives you the opportunity to use your investment returns to reduce your rent. Depending on the amount you invest, you could theoretically reduce your rent to nothing or even receive a net positive payment from the co-op for living here!

8. Why the Alternative Ownership Model?

The alternative ownership model was chosen for the following reasons:

  • The land is owned by the co-operative and therefore by the community, not by one or two individuals or a selected power-base.
  • By keeping the land in a Community Land Trust it cannot be sold or speculated upon and therefore is owned by the community permanently. In this way it provides long-term security for the community.
  • Alternative ownership agreements (or long term leases) prevent residents from having full ownership rights, as opposed to other arrangements such as community title or strata title. Ownership rights can often lead to disaffected residents seeking legal action against the co-op, which can then force segmentation or fragmentation of ownership or control. By eliminating ownership this allows the co-operative to function as a community.
  • The AOM allows each member and resident to go through a thorough process before becoming a member or resident, where they get to check out the community and the community gets to check them out to determine if both are a good fit for each other. This provides safety to residents and provides mechanisms to remove residents that are harmful to the community if all other avenues fail.
  • The AOM provides affordability. Without lease agreements, separate titles and ownership would create an avenue for speculation and unaffordable price increases, effectively selecting residents based on the amount of money they have rather than their character and willingness to live in community. The Byron Shire is one of the most unaffordable places to live in Australia and there are currently no affordable housing options available within the Shire.
  • The AOM provides flexibility to residents in that entering or exiting the community is not a lengthy or expensive process and does not require external authorities or agencies.
  • The AOM does not require mortgage repayments or banks and therefore provides more ethical ways of managing funds
  • The AOM ensures all residents are subject to the same conditions and benefits as everyone else, and so provides equality.
  • The AOM fosters community as all members/residents have the ability to participate in decisions on how the community land will be used.
  • Using the AOM there should be no confusion around ownership of buildings, land or assets within the eco village.
  • The AOM provides a model of care-taking the land rather than owning the land, which is more aligned with the indigenous way of living.

9. Will I be able to build my own house at Bruns Eco Village?

Under the structure discussed above, the Bruns Eco Village co-op will build all houses and facilities within the eco village and will have ownership of these buildings.

  • The co-op intends to build homes using architecturally designed templates that will significantly reduce the cost of construction and ultimately the cost of living.
  • Initial residents will be able to choose from a number of designs.
  • Residents will however have input into the design of the house and cluster they intend to live in.
  • Residents can modify their home (with some limitations) at their own cost, and subject to approval from the community, once they are living in it.
  • All designs will be at minimum 7-star rated, solar passive and built with environmentally friendly materials.
  • There may be an opportunity to be involved in the building of your selected house. If so you may be able to use that labour as a credit towards your future lease payments.

10. How is the Bruns Eco Village going to be funded?

The Bruns Eco Village co-op requires investment to buy the land, build all proposed dwellings, community facilities and infrastructure. The eco village will be built in stages so the full funds are not required up front. Over time the need for investors will get less, as income from residential leases will allow the co-op to fund itself.

Funds will be sourced from three avenues:

1. Initial bond

All members who apply for a residential lease in the eco village will need to pay a bond to the co-op. This initial funding will be used to buy the land from the current owner and transfer ownership to the eco village co-op.

When residents leave the eco village their bond will be refunded to them (less any damage expenses if necessary) using the new bond received from the incoming residents. Bonds may be increased over time according to the co-op’s discretion with a mandate that they remain affordable.

2. Resident investors

Residents of the eco village who also invest in the co-op will provide funds to build the village while also getting a return either in the form of reduced rent or investment return payments.

3. Investors

Initial investors in the project will be members of the co-op but not residents of the eco village. They will receive a return annually on their investment from the leases payments made by residents.

11. Can I consider my Bruns Eco Village home as a financial investment?

The Bruns Eco Village Alternative Ownership Model provides people with a lifetime lease over their home with a fixed rent. However as residents do not purchase their home they cannot sell it in the future. This is to avoid investment properties on the eco village and to remove the homes from the speculative real estate market where prices can be driven upwards and out of reach of potential residents.

Income generated from leases (after investors have been paid) will be accumulated by the co-op and re-invested into village projects that benefit residents.

The people behind the eco village

12. Who are the people behind Bruns Eco Village?

The eco village is coming into being due to the hard work of a core group of people who are offering their unique skills and experience to the project. You can read more about the Bruns Eco Village Working Group here.

Bruns Eco Village is also partnering with Bioregional Australia and Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) Australia. You can read more about our partners here.

Ways to be involved

13. I’d like to get involved. What are the steps?

The first step towards becoming a resident of the Bruns Eco Village is to participate in the Village Development Program. The current Village Development Program has been fully subscribed and is now underway. It will run from September 2015 to December 2017. However if you would like to participate in any future Village Development Programs please register for updates.

If you would like to become an investor in the Bruns Eco Village project contact us to discuss investment options.

14. Is there a limit on the number of people who can register to live in Bruns Eco Village?

There is no limit to the number of people who can register to take part in the Village Development Program. However there will be a limit to how many people can apply to be a member of Bruns Eco Village co-op and live within Bruns Eco Village.

The number of houses available within Bruns Eco Village determines this limit. The total population of Bruns Eco Village will be guided by the constraints of the site.

Only people who have completed the Village Development Program will be eligible to live in the village.

15. What if I decide not to join the Bruns Eco Village pathway to becoming a resident after participating in the Village Development Program and other processes?

The Village Development Program is a valuable training in its own right where you get to experience a unique and powerful process of community building and education. You will receive a certificate for attending the program, which can be used to apply for Bruns Eco Village in the future and can be referred to in your personal achievements. The materials obtained and teachings learned from the Village Development Program may assist you in developing your own community or project in the future.

You are very welcome to continue to be involved peripherally with Bruns Eco Village if you wish by attending various activities initiated by the village. You may also invest in the co-operative without living there.

16. When can people move into Bruns Eco Village?

Current timelines suggest that it will be early 2020 before house building starts at Bruns Eco Village. The village may be developed in stages or by clusters with a certain amount of dwellings constructed each year.

Bonds and lease arrangements can be arranged before building begins to secure your place and your home as a resident in the village.

Village Development Program (VDP)

17. What is the Village Development Program?

The Village Development Program is a complete education package for living in community. It is open to potential residents of Bruns Eco Village and will provide a training and experience in its own right to those who are interested in community living.

  • The program provides basic training in essential processes for living in community (conflict resolution, decision-making, social dynamics) and explores the expectations residents may have from the eco village.
  • We will introduce participants to eco village models around the world, reveal the practices that have worked most successfully and share why Bruns Eco Village has chosen certain models.
  • The first VDP program has started the process of creating community where participants can form relationships with other participants that intend to live in the eco village.

Please note: Anyone who would like to apply to be a resident of Bruns Eco Village must complete the Village Development Program. Without completing the program you will not be eligible to enter the pathway to becoming a resident or become a member of the co-op.

18. Is the Village Development Program only for future residents of the Eco village?

The Village Development Program is primarily focused on the creation of the community for Bruns Eco Village but is also open to anyone seeking to broaden their experience and education in ecovillages generally.

If you fall into one of these categories then the Village Development Program is for you:

  1. You are seeking a personal development experience and would like to acquire new life skills
  2. You want to learn skills that will support you to live with others at another ecovillage or intentional community
  3. You wish to live at Bruns Eco Village and form a cluster with like minded souls where you can develop a future, together

The tools and processes taught throughout the Village Development Program can be applied to any community creation process and include skills that can be used in many different life situations.

19. Are there future Village Development Programs planned?

Yes! There will be an week long Village Development Program taking place in February 2018 once the current Village Development Program has completed. Visit our Village Development Program page for further details. Alternatively you can register for the next VDP by clicking on the link below.

20. What are the benefits of participating in the Village Development Program?

All participants who complete the Village Development Program will have the opportunity to join the pathway to becoming a resident at the ecovillage in the future.

Residents of the future village will also become members of the future co-operative. They will therefore be involved in decisions made by the co-operative about the village.

Bruns Eco Village Pet Policy

21. Are pets allowed on Bruns Eco Village?

Dogs and cats are not allowed in Bruns Eco Village with the exception of companion/service dogs.

In July 2017 a pet policy circle was created from representatives of the Village Development Program and the Bruns Eco Village Meta Circle (or core working group). This task was to come to a decision on whether dogs and cats would be allowed in Bruns Eco Village. In December 2017, after a long dynamic governance process, the circle consented to no dogs or cats on the village.

The pet policy circle recommended that this decision be reviewed at the point of sale of the land (estimated as October 2019).

Bruns Eco Village Planning Process

Section 1: Explanation of terms

22. What is a planning proposal?

A planning proposal is essentially an application to ‘rezone’ a land site.

It is used and read by those who are responsible for deciding whether the proposal should proceed, as well as the general community.

The relevant planning authority (in this case Byron Shire Council) is responsible for the content of the planning proposal and the quality of the information provided in support of the proposal. Council needs to be satisfied the information is accurate, current and sufficient prior to forwarding to the state government for issuing a Gateway determination (explained below) and subsequently detailed enough for the purposes of consulting with agencies and the general community.

A Gateway determination, by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment specifies whether a planning proposal is to proceed and if so, in what circumstances. The purpose of the Gateway determination is to ensure there is sufficient justification early in the process to proceed with a planning proposal. The Minister for Planning or their delegates can issue a Gateway determination and specify the level of community consultation required and what additional processes and information is required based on the complexity of the proposal.

23. What's the difference between a Planning Proposal and an Expression of Interest (EOI)?

A Planning Proposal, as described above, is a document used in the Local Environmental Plan (LEP) amendment (‘rezoning’) process within NSW. Local Environmental Plans stipulate planning rules for local government areas using zoning and development controls, which provide a framework for the way land can be used.

An Expression of Interest (EOI) is the term Council used when it was seeking responses from landowners who were proposing various affordable housing concepts.

24. What is a Voluntary Planning Agreement?

A Voluntary Planning Agreement is an agreement made between a planning authority (i.e. the local government area Council or the Department of Planning and Environment) and a person or people who are developing a piece of land. The person or people developing the land agree to provide or fund public amenities, affordable housing, transport or other infrastructure of community benefit relevant to that land and its location.

These agreements are attached to the land, similar to conditions of development consent and therefore can be locked in and remain even if the land is sold to new owners.

25. What's the definition of Affordable Housing?

There are many definitions of affordable housing. Council has recognised that the existing affordable housing definitions and planning provisions are not satisfactorily addressing the housing crisis in the shire. A lot of commonwealth and state government provisions are focused on metropolitan situations.

It is for this reason that Council is asking for pilots projects of different models. New different approaches may use different definitions.

Bruns Eco Village has chosen to cap rents at 80% of market rates, which is more targeted than broad income measures. As market rates and inflation continue to rise, Bruns Eco Village rents are likely to sit at 50% of market rates within 20 years.

Section 2: Saddle Road Planning Proposal

26. Why have Saddle Road landholders submitted a Planning Proposal?

On June 22nd 2017 Byron Shire Council invited landowners within Byron Shire to present pilot projects for affordable housing under an affordable housing pilot project process.

Councillors voted to: “support further discussions with landowners ... and [the] progression of work necessary to establish the feasibility of ... sites ... for affordable housing [including] site ‘17’ Saddle Road land ... and where appropriate, invite lodgement of Planning Proposals to rezone the land for this purpose”. (Resolution 17-260)

In the follow up meeting from Resolution 17-260 Council staff invited a Planning Proposal to be lodged for Saddle Road in follow-up to Resolution 17-260. Subsequently 5 landholders opted to submit land to be part of the requested Planning Proposal, the Dalys being one of those landholders.

29. Where is the land being proposed?

The Bruns Eco Village site and surrounding lands are at the Brunswick Heads end of Saddle Road. Bruns Eco Village is not the land beside Uncle Tom's that has been subject to earthworks and removal of native vegetation.

30. Why is Bruns Eco Village being located specifically on 66 Saddle Road, Brunswick Heads and not in another location?

The Dalys who currently hold the land at 66 Saddle Road are the instigators of the Bruns Eco Village project and are driving and funding the project. Without the Dalys, the Bruns Eco Village concept would not exist or continue currently. The ecovillage project does not involve any other parcel of land on Saddle Road.

The Dalys are willing to sell the land to the Bruns Eco Village community (once rezoned to allow an ecovillage) at a reduced price. They are therefore shouldering much of the risk related to developing the future community. Offers like these are unique and it is unlikely another offer like this would be available elsewhere in the Shire.

The current Byron Draft Preliminary Residential Strategy (August 2016) identifies the Saddle Road area as a potential residential area for new homes. This comes after an extensive study of the whole Byron Shire that focused on suitable lands for residential development. Considerations in such a study include access to services and transport, flood risk, environmental sensitivity, ridgelines and landscape values, bushfire, soil type, erosion, agricultural value and other constraints. Saddle Road was one of only a handful of sites in the Shire that was found suitable for greenfield development based on the above considerations and the only site large enough for an ecovillage of this scale. (see diagram) No other rural land in the Shire is supported by Council for the scale of development necessary for an ecovillage.

The draft residential strategy determined that Saddle Road should provide some of its own services and education facilities. This aligns with the goals and plans of the Bruns Eco Village.

66 Saddle Road is of a size (over 100 acres) that can support the proposed scale of the ecovillage and can manage all its inputs and outputs.

In addition to this, the site is accessible due to its proximity to the national highway and allows for social enterprises, educational and economic opportunities that help ensure long term economic sustainability for the community. Its prime location between Brunswick Heads and Mullumbimby ensures that there will most likely be an oversubscription of applicants for residency and this will enable and support the proposed Alternative Ownership Model. The site has plentiful water sources and good soils for food production, both elements needed for the ecovillage.

31. Why is BEV working with other Saddle Road landowners in the Planning Proposal process?

As mentioned above Council invited landholders on Saddle Road to submit a planning proposal related to that area. Bruns Eco Village along with other Saddle Road landholders lodged a planning proposal together as part of the shared Saddle Road area.

Not only this however, Bruns Eco Village is collaborative by nature, and wants a productive relationship with her neighbours. They are multiple-generation locals with a deep attachment to the area, and who understand how dire the housing crisis in the Shire has become.

Bruns Eco Village sees this as an opportunity to create a broad vision for positive, community-appropriate development across the ridge, and influence the context within which Bruns Eco Village itself is developed.

Our aspiration in creating Bruns Eco Village is to produce a model of sustainable housing design that can be replicated and used in other housing projects. In fact we hope to one day support other landholders to do that.

With a well-planned staged release with clear conditions and Council in control, projects surrounding the Bruns Eco Village site would have the opportunity to follow and observe the Bruns Eco Village development and to replicate measures which have proved successful.

This collaboration is for the Planning Proposal phase only. A Development Application for Bruns Eco Village would be prepared independently.

32. Who are the other landowners in the Planning Proposal?

The other landholders are long-term local families who have lived in the locality over generations, not developers who have arrived recently. Two other applicants are making the offer to dedicate 20% of their land for affordable housing. They have made a considerably generous affordable housing offer in good faith responding to Council’s invitation to do so.

33. What happens if a mega-developer gets a hold of the BEV land?

The most common feedback we get is that ‘we love what Bruns Eco Village is about, but we don’t want to open the way for more speculative development’. Neither do we!

Bruns Eco Village has deliberately sought tight restrictions for the Bruns Eco Village site, such as requesting that the site cannot be subdivided into small lots. This would limit the land’s attractiveness to speculative developers.

Bruns Eco Village has always been willing to lock in such intentions through a Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA). Such an agreement can include enforceable measures that ensure the development actually delivers what Council and the community want.

34. What about the Aboriginal cultural sites of significance on Saddle Ridge?

Any planning proposal such as Saddle Road requires an extensive array of issues to be investigated including indigenous and non-indigenous heritage.

Currently an extensive heritage assessment is underway following all of the nominated consultation processes including those with Registered Aboriginal Parties.

Section 3: The Planning Process

35. What process is the PP being assessed under?

This Planning Proposal is being assessed under Council’s affordable housing pilot project invitation, evolving out of Resolution 17-260 from the June 2017 Council meeting.

Normally residential land releases are only considered once council adopts a residential strategy. However in this case due to the affordable housing crisis council’s planning director made the following comments in her report prior to Council’s June 2017 meeting:

“In response to the issue of ‘land availability’, at the Councillor workshop held 11 May 2016, support was expressed for the identification of and progression of potential pilot sites ahead of the Residential Land Strategy to rezone land that could be used to achieve affordable/diverse housing outcomes for the Shire.

It is recommended that Council support progression of the preliminary work necessary to establish the feasibility of [identified] sites for this purpose including discussions with landowners. Progression of Planning Proposals to rezone the land for affordable / diverse housing could follow where appropriate.”

As a result of these ‘discussions with landowners’, Bruns Eco Village is offering 100% affordable and diverse housing for Byron Shire.

Council are also assessing other Expression of Interest pilot projects around the shire. Details of this process are available on Council’s website.

We are committed to transparency and providing real and significant housing options for Byron Shire.

36. How does the Planning Proposal fit into the Residential Strategy?

Saddle Road has been identified in Residential Strategies over time including this current Council’s Preliminary Draft Residential Strategy. Byron Shire Council has a responsibility to plan for Area 17 and is acting on that responsibility.

In October 2016 Council resolved to hold a Byron Shire Housing Summit prior to adopting the Byron Shire Residential Strategy. The purpose of the Summit was to look at what could be done differently to improve the availability of housing in Byron Shire.

Shannon Burt, council’s Director Sustainable Environment and Economy compiled in a report on the summit where she recommended that further discussions with landowners be supported to establish the feasibility of the certain sites for affordable housing.

It was decided by councillors to allow an Expression of Interest process which would allow people with land and affordable housing projects to present their model and determine its feasibility or otherwise for the shire. Any identified projects would still need to go through the appropriate planning process.

The current residential strategy is as yet a preliminary draft, as opposed to a completed document. Its lack of completion has limited opportunities for housing initiatives.

Council decided to invite innovative pilot projects and consider moving ahead with some of those projects rather than wait further years for a finalised strategy due to the housing crisis facing the shire.

This Planning Proposal is raising questions around how to provide a different kind of housing project that will support ecological, social and economic sustainability for the community. Byron Shire is perfectly placed to pioneer pilot projects like these.

37. What is the due process for Planning Proposal applications?

This graphic shows the due process of Planning Proposal applications.

38. What point in the process is this Planning Proposal?

Byron Shire Council is currently assessing the Planning Proposal (Pt 2). Additional investigations are being undertaken with these further details being lodged with Council. Council is responsible for ensuring that the level and quality of detail in the planning proposal document is accurate, current and sufficient prior to forwarding to the state government for issuing a Gateway determination and subsequently detailed enough for the purposes of consulting with agencies and the general community.

According to due process, an official presentation period happens where a planning proposal goes on public exhibition at the appropriate time so that the entire community can have a say on the matter. This hasn’t happened and is still a few steps away.

We feel that our values and intentions are reflected in the Community Charter for Good Planning, and we are committed to meeting those principles.

Section 4: Byron Shire Council’s Affordable Housing Pilot Project Process

39. Are there other landowners on Saddle Road lodging Affordable Housing Expressions of Interest (EOIs)?

We are advised some 11 other Saddle Road landowners have lodged an Expression of Interest (EOI) for pilot projects as part of the invitation extended by Council on June 22nd, 2017.

40. Is Bruns Eco Village getting special treatment?

Not that we’ve noticed. There have been many proposals submitted to Council’s Affordability Pilot EOI from around the shire (including those from Saddle Ridge mentioned above), and some have already been given the green light for further investigation.

Bruns Eco Village is following the pathway that has been laid out, and this pathway involves various community consultation processes. (See graphic above)

41. Is Bruns Eco Village just jumping on the affordability bandwagon because the opening was there?

Council invited Area 17 landowners (on Saddle Road) to prepare a proposal based on delivering affordable and diverse housing in its resolution of June 2017. Bruns Eco Village responded with an offer of 100% affordable and diverse housing. Other landholders have committed to different affordable housing offers as part of the Saddle Road Planning Proposal.

Further landowners on Saddle Road and around Byron Shire have lodged Expressions of Interest proposing affordable housing pilot projects.

Affordability and diversity have been part of BEV’s DNA since conception, and well before the affordable housing pilot project process was announced. We recognise that ecological, local economic and social sustainability must go hand in hand.

Bruns Eco Village developed its Alternative Ownership Model in early 2016.

42. How will Bruns Eco Village and the other landholders in the Planning Proposal provide affordable and diverse housing?

The Alternative Ownership Model uses a Community Land Trust model where the land can’t be bought and sold and is held permanently by the community, for affordable housing. BEV will cap rents at 80% of market rates.

Currently there is an offer of affordable housing on the table that has never been proposed before:

  • Bruns Eco Village is offering to make every home in the ecovillage affordable by capping rents and using a Community Land Trust model.
  • Two landholders adjoining the Bruns Eco Village site are offering to dedicate 20% of their developable land to council for affordable housing.