Yesterday we’ve signed the memorandum of association of the housing cooperative Tiny House Alkmaar! Now our initiative group Tiny House Alkmaar is officially a cooperative, is able to make arrangements for her members, enter into agreements and purchase goods and services. We’re one more step closer to realising our Tiny House pilot project in Alkmaar, but we’re not there yet. Today I want to explain to you why we’ve chosen this legal form.
Photo: Marja and me signing the act at Appel Notaries in Obdam
All right, this is going to be a long one, I hope you’re ready for it. I couldn’t do it in fewer words ;)
Who are these people?
Let’s take a step back first: who are the people behind the initiative group Tiny House Alkmaar? In 2015 I started to look for a place for my own Tiny House. At the time I had my job in Alkmaar and because I wanted to make less use of my car, I wanted to live within bicycling range of my job. I started an initiative group Tiny House Bergen because I wanted to start a pilot project for Tiny Houses in the municipality of Bergen, but unfortunately the current city council lacked support for this. I also came into contact with foundations that were active on the ground in the city of Alkmaar, where I live now. I was then invited by GroenLinks Alkmaar to give a lecture on Tiny Houses and after that, things started moving. Aldermen Anjo van der Ven and Jan Nagengast were actually excited about a Tiny House project and the former Nuon terrain was perfect for it. We submitted a project plan and on May 18th I got permission to move my Tiny House there. I got permission for a month but thankfully the permission got extended.
From that moment on, the municipality of Alkmaar received so many requests from people who also wanted to live in a Tiny House in Alkmaar, they asked me and the Tiny House Nederland foundation to coordinate these applications. To do that, we created a form on the website of Tiny House Nederland, which was filled in over 400 times. This was the starting point for my search to find new neighbours. Of course, not everyone understood what the project entailed, seeing that the location is only temporarily available to us and you would need to buy or build a self-sufficient Tiny House for yourself. After explaining this in an e-mail and asking the applicants to fill in a questionnaire if they were still interested, the list was cut down to around 50 people. They were very interested and had the resources to buy or build their own Tiny House.
Unfortunately a number of things happened that seriously delayed the project. The waterboard Hollands Noorderkwartier filed an objection against the project, the cooperation between the foundation and the Gasfabriek was a struggle, causing me to draw back and find another partner. Luckily the municipality wanted to mediate, so in the end the responsibility for the organization and execution of the pilot project was given to me. Because of these delays I decided to start an active initiative group in Alkmaar, to show the support for this project and to distribute the tasks at hand. I asked the 50 people who filled in the questionnaire if they were willing to invest a few hours a week for this initiative group and Marja, Marloes, Lan, Rene, Michel and Martje were excited about that and answered positively. My initiative group was born!
The municipality of Alkmaar wanted me to be the head of this project in the name of Tiny House Nederland, but our foundation is a national platform for the Tiny House movement and doesn’t handle local projects. The municipality said that the needed agreements like a loan agreement and environmental permit, needed to be signed by a legal form like a foundation of association. They don’t want to enter into these agreements with individuals and I understand that. Besides, our initiative group could also benefit from uniting ourselves into a legal form. So hence the choice to make: which legal form is suitable for us?
Why a housing cooperative?
The most obvious alternatives are: a foundation, an association or a cooperative. I had a preference for a cooperative. In discussions with the initiative group it became clear we find equality very important – everyone has an equal vote. The main question was: what do we want to achieve with our legal form?
- A legal entity that is able to enter into agreements with the municipality
- Rent and/or manage land from the municipality for Tiny House living projects
- Buying goods and services on behalf of our members
- When a member leaves the organisation, we want to be able to refund a part of the investment he or she made for communal facilities.
A cooperative is the best match for these wishes. We call ourselves a housing cooperative, because our goal is to realise housing projects. Housing cooperatives are in the picture and are even mentioned in the Dutch Housing Law. Our housing cooperative is a little different though. In a housing cooperative as mentioned in the Housing Law, a group or residents work together with a housing corporation (note the difference!) in order to buy or manage houses. All we will do is manage land, and every member will build or buy his or her own transportable Tiny House. I think it’s an added value to the concept and fits well in these times. The description of Platform 31, which has an information file on the housing cooperative, fits our mission well:
‘What exactly is a housing cooperative? There are a number of definitions, but the main thing is, it’s an organisational form and not a specific form of housing. The basis is the collective aspect, but it’s not the same as communal living. It’s about people uniting because they feel they can create a better and more affordable living situation together. Traditionally cooperatives arise when the market and institutions in a specific domain can’t answer to the needs of a certain group. There is solidarity as well as well understood individual interests. The cooperative provides a good legal structure for this.’
Well. That about covers it perfectly. right?
The board of our housing cooperative consists of three members. I’m president, Marja Keizer is treasurer and Marloes van de Gulik is secretary. Lan Ha Ti Chi is also member of the housing cooperative, which means four out of our five possible places for the pilot project are filled. Unfortunately for all of us, Rene, Michel and Martje let us know they can’t participate in our project at this time. We have a few people on our backup list, and we’ll contact them first. If we’re not able to fill the fifth spot with one of them, we’ll have to search for new residents. If you’re interested, add yourself to our mailing list via the website: http://www.tinyhousealkmaar.nl/contact/
When will we move forward?
When can Marja, Marloes and Lan come to live here, you might wonder? Well, we have that same question. Unfortunately, bureaucracy moves slowly and there are always bumps in the road causing delay. But I have to be honest, I’ve been on this project for almost three years now and I’ve lived alone here for two years this upcoming May, so I’m getting a little tired of bureaucracy. I love living here, but it was never my intention to live alone. I believe in the power of small communities. I see the giant need for small, sustainable and affordable ways of living. The need to be able to create your own house, environment and lifestyle.
Alkmaar was one of the first municipalities with a legally inhabited Tiny House, the first municipality that issued an environmental permit for a Tiny House pilot project. Since then we’ve been overtaken by other municipalities and there are many more on their way to realising Tiny House living plots. Alkmaar is running behind now and that’s a shame. I know it’s hard to get all the noses headed in the same direction. But it’s also a matter of prioritising. What we want is really not that complicated. A place for us to run a pilot, it’s just a piece of land. We’ll take care of everything else and create added value for the municipality. We’re doing research in cooperation with Hogeschool InHolland, on what it means to live this way, and organise open house days because we want to share this way of living with the world. We have partners like Buro Ruiter and Actief Talent Alkmaar to help us make this a beautiful part of Alkmaar. People friendly and environmentally friendly, even if it’s just for a few years. We’ll share our knowledge and experience with the municipality and the rest of the Netherlands. We hope it will help start up other Tiny House living projects. We want to eradicate all prejudice there is about Tiny Housing and prove that it’s a valuable asset to the range of housing. We want to prove that participation and private commissioning isn’t hard, but that it delivers a diversity of valuable projects for society. In conclusion, we would like to be able to start.
Photo: still eating my sandwich alone…there’s plenty of room! When are my neighbours allowed to come? ;)