Homebase Studio Placemakers
From renting to buying land
When coming to Senegal we have no intention of ever buying land, we are simply planning to rent. In Yene we find a nice house close to the fish market and the sea. It is bigger than we are looking for and a bit too expensive, but we cannot resist it. For €300 per month we have enough space to live comfortably on the ground floor and have an office and workshop in the two (half constructed) little rooms on the roof terrace. We advance nine months of rent by paying the materials and labour to finish the rooms on the roof and rebuild the ‘shed’ into a small studio for visitors. Win-win. We invest a month’s time to coordinate this and fix up the house in general.
The nine months pass and we enjoy living and working there, we get to know the way people live and all that happens around the fish market. But it’s far from perfect in many ways. After about a year we start to look out for a cheaper or better place, you never know. It turns out we already know most options. For anything affordable at least two of the following always applies: terribly designed, poorly built, hardly maintained. The somewhat better houses are too expensive and often furnished with bad taste. (We actually had the ‘luck’ that in our house most of the furniture and belongings had been stolen by angry family members of the owner, so we could create our own style.)
Given this lack of other options we are actually well off where we are. The ball starts rolling when the owner let’s us know he plans to continue building on the roof and will increase the rent when this is done. By that time we have chosen to stay in Yene at least five more years to really get placemaking off the ground. Five years of rent is enough money to buy land and construct a small house the way we want it. This makes renting very expensive in comparison. The main reason for this imbalance: money is scarce, land and labour are not. We don’t have the money either, but we are fortunate with Hans’ parents who offer us a loan (€15.000). On top of this they also want to finance a guesthouse for artists, family and friends. Too good to be true and we start looking around.
Finding and choosing land, negotiating a price, figuring out the mutually agreed upon borders and buying the land are all a whole story on their own. Thanks to great advise and support we succeeded in all steps.