DIY, Off Grid, Homesteading

Dilapidated Apartment Building Transformed into an Off-Grid, Forest-Garden Community

They’ve UNpaved paradise and put up a food forest in the parking lot in Portland, Oregon


A Portland, Oregon couple purchased an old, rundown apartment building, 4 miles from the city center in 2007.

The 1950s building had fallen into such disrepair, a quarter of the apartments were deemed “unlivable,” homeless people were found living in the boarded up areas, and meth deals and shoot-outs in the parking lot were becoming commonplace.

2007 vs 2022

As the new property managers, Ole Ersson and his wife, Maitri, invited residents who were interested in their vision to stay and help, and called in new members to join their “intentional community” as well.

Their first order of business? Tear up the parking lot, lawn and in-filled pool and replace it with an orchard, vineyard, berry patches and vegetable gardens.

2008 vs 2016


Next, remodel the 50 apartments, retrofit them with composting toilets and rocket stoves, put solar panels and a rain harvesting system on the roof, dig a 100-foot well, install a 1500 cistern, pond and “wetland” habitat, bring in bee hives, create composting, humanure and urine-fertilizer processing facilities.

In just over 10 years, since the forest-garden was planted, their 2-acre property is producing tons of fruit and veggies, and they are almost entirely independent of city services, such as electricity, water, sewer and trash. Residents have access to shared electric vehicles, bicycles and gardening tools.

Solar panels currently supply about 3/4 of the residents’ electricity, but are being expanded so they will cover 100% of their needs, Ole says in a video interview.

Rent at Kailash Ecovillage is around $1000 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, and each resident is expected to volunteer at least an hour a month of “labor” in the community garden.

Ole says they could probably charge twice that for all that’s included in community membership, but making money is not their end goal.

The community currently has a wait-list of about 300 people who’d like to live there. Ole hopes Kailash can serve as a model for more eco-villages to develop to meet the growing demand.

Not only are the members of Kailash prepared for earthquakes, food shortages and other emergencies that could force them to go entirely off grid, they are freed up to enjoy day-to-day life more without all the stresses of maintaining a single-family home, yard, utilities, grocery bills, etc.

“Everybody knows everybody, and people eat together, and party together and garden together… where we meet each other more than anywhere else is gardening together,” Ole says.

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