Could allotment gardening in Europe provide a model to end Homelessness in America?

Typical allotment garden on Käferberg hill in Zürich, Switzerland

Typical allotment garden on Käferberg hill in Zürich, Switzerland

One of my Tiny House Living readers, Wayne, passed this onto me. A Kleingarten, or allotment gardening is similar to the community gardens you might find across America but have some significant differences.

The parcels typically range in size from 200 and 400 square meters each (2,100 to 4,300 square feet) and often include a structure (tiny house) for tool storage and shelter during visits. To provide  governance, member associations are formed to manage plot assignment and the collection of fees for leasing the land and common maintenance.

The land can be owned by a public, private or church entity and there can be several hundred gardens in one community. These were originally setup to help provide communities with a variety of benefits including providing those in need a place to grow food inexpensively.

It’s estimated that there are about three million individual allotment gardens across Europe today. The earliest allotment gardens mentioned in the Wikipedia article date back to the 1700’s and 1,800’s. You can read all about this on in English and in German.

We really should do something like this in America for people that need a little space to get back on their feet. I’ve written about this kind of idea before and small communities like this do exist in America, like Dignity Village, but they are often blocked by local governments and communities. I just can’t see how this kind of solution could be worse than the current situation.

Imagine self-governed groups setting up small sustainable villages like this on leased or donated land, growing their own food, taking pride in their life and work, and having a safe place to get back on their feet. The only real difference I’m suggesting is that the tiny homes in American allotment gardens should be habitable.

I would also go as far as to say they these should not be limited to those in severe need of housing but be made available for folks looking for a simpler lower cost life. In fact that would probably make the whole community function better by increasing the diversity of people living and gardening there. In fact not all the allotment gardeners would need to be residents but could still participate in the community.

I could continue to ramble on but I think you can now see that the sky is really the limit on positive benefits to our communities something like this could bring. I can hear the critics already arguing that low-cost communities like this could bring property values down farther and increase crime. I’d argue that our economy would recharge more quickly as more Americans became more productive, more self-reliant, and felt better about their life and future.

Wayne… thanks again for tipping me off to the Kleingarten.  Photo credit Wikipedia.

Update: Wayne just passed on this great website resource to me called Kleingartenverein Liebhartstal. (Also see the English translation.) It’s an example of one very successful allotment gardening association in Vienna, Austria.




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