LETS use Units at Home
Not many of us are lucky enough to live in homes that are too big. But quite a few of us in Australia do. Not many of us grow more food than we need, either. But some of us do, or could do, and some of us give it away. Not surprisingly, people in this situation would sometimes like some help and companionship, too. So how can they make better use of space and garden produce (or potential produce) and at the same time get some help and company? The answer, obviously, is to provide accommodation. But how can this arrangement be worked out fairly? Here’s how LETS might help:
Whether or not you’re the home-owner, LETS can facilitate a household economy or create a micro-community. I call mine Equanimity Foundation.
It took me a couple of years to work this out, but I think I’ve finally got it right. I’ve been learning by trial and error and also by researching intentional and sustainable communities around the world. Here’s how it works: I rent a room out at $80 per week + 5 hours of work (gardening &/or cleaning). I value the hours at minimum wage rates (currently $17 per hour) or higher depending on circumstances, which means the housemate provides $165 worth of income and labour. They have access to garden produce at supermarket prices, paid in LETS units. Any work they do less than 5 hours is made up in dollars, and any more is credited in Units. So housemates get cheap, organic food and can easily cover their expenditure by doing more than 5 hours, while at the same time boosting production. They get onsite employment and save on commuting, etc.. Most of the good kind of housemates have a life outside home, be it study or work, so they can’t spare much more than 5 hours on gardening. It appeals to those who value their time and good, wholesome food as well as knowing where it comes from and how it’s grown. More importantly, it appeals to those who want to build the alternative, debt-free economy.
It takes a while to price your produce, and you need to keep it up-to-date. But it’s important, I found, to value it and value your housemate’s time properly.
Make it easy for the housemate to keep a record of their consumption and labour. Create a price list that’s easy to follow and keep it handy for the housemate. Provide some digital scales and provide a spreadsheet that mirrors the price list, grouping similar things together for ease. The spreadsheet automatically calculates everything.
Square off every week or fortnight.
Another thing I’ve learnt from studying communities is the rule of making it “Hard to get in, Easy to leave.” Don’t look for someone when you’re desperate. Take your time to sus them out and choose what your instincts tell you to. Decide whether to ask for a bond, or make a virtue of trusting that your housemate will pay for any damage they incur, but make the understanding clear from the beginning.
A few other System Rules that help make any shared space run smoothly is, “Keep things together”, “Put things back” and “Shop at home first”.
At Equanimity Foundation, I am focussed on connecting socially, living sustainably and mitigating the negative effects of the monetary system. But this system would help the neighbours I know who are getting on in years and could do with some younger company and help, while at the same time helping those who need accommodation. It might take away the unknown factor that sometimes creates fear and distrust. It may seem a pain to ‘quantify’ little things, but ultimately, in this sort of situation, it’s often a failure to do so that leads to misunderstandings.
Equanimity Foundation (wordpress.com)