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January '03

The project of Sadaca

- by Rolf


Financing apartment blocks through loans to be repaid from monthly rents is an option which is being studied by Auroville's Funds and Assets Management Committee (FAMC)

Four apartments in Arati

Higher-density buildings are not necessarily an architectural preference brought upon Auroville by a "capricious" Master Plan. It might well be a conscious alternative. For sharing has proven to be beneficial for ecological, economic and social reasons. Ecologically, sharing results in a more efficient use of natural resources like land, water and energy. The water consumption in high-density areas, for example, has proven to be considerable less than in low-density areas. Collective wastewater treatment plants can supply all the recycled water which a common garden would need. Electricity consumption is less as many facilities such as storerooms and washing machines can be shared.

Economically too, sharing means saving costs. Large solar hot-water systems are cheaper than small ones; maintenance expenses of collective infrastructure are considerable lower; the costs of employees such as gardeners and watchmen can be shared. Given the present economic situation of the Central Fund, and the fact that funds available for personal maintenance are not increasing while there is a constant inflation in the cost of living, higher density living might become more and more a necessity.

Last there is the social aspect of living more closely together. For harmonious living, one is compelled to take other people's needs into account and maybe change one's behavior along the way, which may turn out to be a training in non-egoistic living.

Notwithstanding the advantages of sharing, apartment buildings are slow to manifest in Auroville. The basic difficulty of building high-density housing blocs seems to be financial. The higher the envisaged density the greater are the complications. The limitations of the present situation, which allow projects to proceed only by advance cash from interested persons or from outside donations, considerably slow down the development of the Residential Zone. It naturally leads to individually manageable solutions, like building single houses, as can be observed in the low-density areas. Our experience with Invocation taught us how difficult it is to find a sufficient number of people who are willing to advance the money and who can wait a few years while construction takes place before moving in. We have experienced that in a project like Arati our own financial constraints forced us to build only one house divided into two apartments at a time, for it is easier to pre-finance two than four or more units.

The Invocation building

The difficulty of lack of available housing poses considerable constraints, not only for Auroville but also for those who want to join. The Newcomers policy in effect limits the possibilities of joining Auroville to those who have sufficient funds to make a donation to Auroville in order to get a place to live; the policy makes it nearly impossible for people without capital to join Auroville. There is also no solution offered to newcomers who have not sufficient capital to build a house, but have only some sort of monthly income. But this cannot be the last word concerning housing and entry.

It is being argued that affordable housing is increasingly a matter of fundraising. The Kailash apartment building is taken as an example, or the Creativity community which to a large extend depends on outside donations [see also Auroville Today October 2002]. While fundraising is doubtless an option to be pursued, the "free" housing it gives might create psychological or practical "side effects". Joining Auroville should, we believe, never be an 'easy' commitment and people who feel the call should be able to stand on their own feet and therefore to take the responsibility of finding the means to fully or partially fund their accommodation in Auroville.

Auroville, then, needs to widen its possibilities and the way it handles housing, without reducing the individual responsibilities of those who are in need to find accommodation. One possibility of doing so is by taking loans from private parties or Auroville units, as well as from friends of Auroville and supporters of the project. With these loans apartment buildings can be built, which then can be rented out against a monthly contribution which is used as loan (and if applicable, interest) repayment. Alternatively, a unit could be made available to a new occupant against a donation to Auroville. The loans should have a one or two year moratorium on loan repayment and preferably be interest-free, or otherwise given at low-interest and with deferred interest payment for the first years, as high interest rates would increase the building costs. The Auroville unit Sumark has proposed that the Sadaca project near Invocation be used as an experiment for this approach. Inspired by the Golconde building of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Sadaca will be an apartment building comprising 9 studios and common facilities in the basement. The studios would have a carpet area of 37 sq.m. with terraces surrounding it on two sides. The studios are meant for individuals who would like to live in Auroville as sadhaks as well as for long term guests who would like to try and work in Auroville with an assured domestic base. This proposal is at present being studied by the Funds and Assets Management Committee, not only on its financial feasibilities but also in view of the ideals of Auroville.

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