Beautiful Homes That Cost Less To Build Than A Single Year’s Rental… Why Aren’t More People Living In Them?

Meg and Charlie’s place is one of the loveliest homes I’ve ever seen. It’s also Earth-friendly and cost less to build than the average tenant’s yearly rent.

It seems strange that more people aren’t choosing to follow Meg and Charlie along the path of low-impact self-builds. Why continue to pay exorbitant housing costs and remain trapped in soul-crushing wage-slavery when it’s possible to step out of that madness, free ourselves to do a lot more of what we love, and live more lightly on the Earth?

The average cost per acre for land in the UK is approx £7,000, while a lovely eco-home such as Meg and Charlie’s can be built for around £10,000. Taking other start-up costs into account, it’s entirely feasible for us to create our own beautiful homes on a acre of land for under £25,000—less than the cost of a mortgage down-payment, less than three years of rent. Why aren’t more people taking advantage of this possibility?

As I see it there are five main factors getting in the way:

  • Most of us are just too busy keeping our heads above water to seriously consider stepping outside the narrow range of conventional possibilities.
  • Most of us don’t have the capital to buy land and build even an inexpensive home.
  • Planning laws and building regulations are prohibitively restrictive.
  • Most of us don’t have the skills to create a dwelling for ourselves, or feel empowered to acquire them.
  • Many of us consider such a move potentially isolating.

Sadly, the vicious cycle of wage-slavery combined with planning restrictions and a sense of disempowerment has most of us trapped in housing that is often unsuitable, un-beautiful, inefficient and generally very expensive. And frustratingly, the large numbers of people who would love to break out of this cycle seem unable to coalesce and create together the low-impact villages that are possible, sharing land, skills, support and community to combat both social isolation and separation from nature.

Surely it’s time for all this to change. Whatever the systemic inertia that is keeping this deeply unsatisfactory situation locked in place has got to shift. Surely the will to embrace the earth-friendly, life enhancing possibilities that beckon to us is growing strong enough to break through the socially constructed obstacles that stand in the way.

We all have a right to a beautiful home on this Earth. Further, we all have a right to a beautiful home that doesn’t require us to break our back our whole life paying for it.

The Earth too has a right for our beautiful homes not to be unduly damaging to the environment and the community of life. The Earth has a right that we create our dwellings with the wellbeing of whole in mind, and live in them in such a way as to cause minimal harm.

That our planning laws currently permit ecologically monstrous constructions to be built while restricting low-impact self-builds is unjust for both people and planet.

How long are we going to endure these planning laws that deny us the freedom to create suitable, ecologically responsible homes for ourselves on the nourishing land? Not much longer.

How long are we going to endure the overt restrictions and subtly imposed limitations that are keeping us trapped in the destructive rat-race? For our own wellbeing and that of the planet, it’s time to break free.

What would you do with your precious time if working to pay rent or mortgage didn’t occupy a major part of your life? What passions would you be free to follow? What dreams would you be free to embody? What healing would you be free to embrace? What soulful gifts do you have to bring to this life that could flourish given more time and a more beautiful space in which to arise?

Many people are too constrained by the struggle for economic survival and the social conformity that attends that struggle to be able even to begin to answer these questions, let alone allow the answers to take shape in their lives.

It’s staggering that centuries of what is called ‘progress’ has brought us to such an impoverished condition.

Imagine if instead of taking out a student loan for £25,000 to gain a degree which is essentially little more than an entrance ticket to the rat-race, young adults had the option to receive a similar-sized loan to enable them to learn the simple skills of living on the land—such as permaculture and traditional crafts including natural building—and with which to build themselves a lovely eco-home.

Imagine if school was about exploring our passions and giving shape to the gifts that are ours to give, so that by the time we were ready to receive a loan to build ourselves a lovely eco-home we were already well on the way to embodying our unique gifts, ready to contribute these to the social and economic commonwealth. 

Unfortunately, for most of us school was the opposite experience to this, and we are living now in the wasteland of disenfranchised dreams, trapped in work that drains us to pay for housing that houses only the shell of our starlight souls.

It’s never too late reclaim our lives, though. We can start now. Many of us have begun already.

However, before we can fully plant our dreams in the fertile ground of the nourishing earth we need to ask ourselves this: what am I prepared to sacrifice in order to give birth to my freedom and my gifts, to make room for more of my starlight soul in my life?

Living more free requires us to break some of the golden chains that are keeping us bound. It requires us to step into a wilder, less socially compliant way of life, a less mediated relationship with the earth, one that exposes us to a little more discomfort perhaps, a little more uncertainty, and a lot more interdependence than we have become used to. It requires us to relinquish some of our suburban expectations, to surrender some of our sense of entitlement to luxury lifestyles founded on the myth of perpetual industrial growth on a finite planet.

How many of us are willing to pay the exit-fee to leave the matrix?

Beautiful and planet-friendly possibilities await us outside its invisible walls. An Earth still alive with magic and wholesome abundance beckons to us as if from the other side of a smoky looking glass. But the truth is: it is we who are inside the looking glass, trapped within a distorted space of limited possibilities. Are we willing to step out and chance it in the wilderness of an expanded horizon? Certainly life is more raw and uncomfortable out there, but it’s also more wondrous and free.

If you’d prefer to trade the latter in an attempt to safeguard against the former, that choice still remains lavishly catered for on the crazy-train of conventional possibilities. But if you’re willing to choose freedom and embrace the consequences, here are some thoughts and suggestions to counter the five obstacles listed above:

  • “Most of us are just too busy keeping our heads above water to seriously consider stepping outside the narrow range of conventional possibilities.” Dare to imagine. Invest your thoughts in beautiful possibilities. Release yourself from the mental constraints of conventional pathways. Listen to your heart and give yourself permission to dream yourself a truly beautiful and soulful home on the Earth, one that neither requires you to break your back your whole life paying for it nor is unduly damaging to the living planet and in which you can live in such a way as to cause minimal harm to the whole community of life. “If you can dream it, it’s possible.”
  • “Most of us don’t have the capital to buy land and build even an inexpensive home.” You deserve the kind of home you have just imagined. The earth deserves for you to have such a home. Thankfully we are just entering the gift economy and a time where basic needs are met in a beautiful, collective way. The old game is over. We all need each other. Competition and artificial scarcity are being replaced with co-operation and natural abundance. Those to whom the chips have fallen in the old game will recognise that those chips are useless unless used to facilitate the wellbeing of all.
  • “Planning laws and building regulations are prohibitively restrictive.” Seriously, we need to treat these regulations in the same way we would treat an injunction against loving our children. They are anti-life and essentially unlawful. They are soon to change anyway, and until then they should be patiently ignored—provided the more basic law of the land is followed, which requires us to build our homes and live in them responsibly, in such a way as to cause minimum harm.
  • “Most of us don’t have the skills to create a dwelling for ourselves, or feel empowered to acquire them.” There is a lot of help available. Together we are strong and abundantly resourced. We each have much to offer and skill-sharing is not only empowering for the receiver but for the giver too. The skills for living lightly and beautifully on our Earth can be acquired easily and their application is good for the health and wellbeing of everyone.
  • “Many of us consider such a move potentially isolating.” Joining with others is the only way forward. We need to be creating working villages, not private low-impact utopias. The pooling of resources, supporting earth other physically and emotionally, commitment to working through our ‘stuff’ in an open way and resolving personal conflicts in the interests of the whole, co-creating solutions and realities—all these create connection, interdependence, integration.

Whenever I think about this stuff I feel like banging my head against a wall, aghast at the sheer absurdity of the world we are living in. Maybe one day enough of us will bang our heads against the walls that imprison us that those walls break and tumble.