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Share Your Yard (or Get Your Neighbors to Share Theirs)


More space, lower bills, and enough pooled cash to install that solar-powered hot tub—there are a lot of practical reasons to share yards with your neighbors. As with any kind of sharing, however, it’s best not to go into the situation willy-nilly. Here’s how (and why) to do it.

Identify what you want. You might want a garden, a nicer view, a better rapport with your neighbors, or to share an investment like a tool shed, fruit trees, or a children’s play structure. Depending on your goals, you could consider a gate, a low or partial fence, a line of trees, or no barrier at all.
Approach your neighbors. Don’t fret if you’ve never said more than hello to the folks next door. "It’s common for people not to know their neighbors,” says Karen Hester, a retrofit cohousing consultant, “Your first step is to spend some time with them.” Invite them over to see your yard. You can tell them what you have in mind, but be sure to hear them out too—then come up with a plan that suits all parties.

Plan for a social space. You can’t think of this as a time-share; the yard will likely be simultaneously used by you and your neighbors, so it’s smart to build in something you all intend to enjoy. Maybe it’s a picnic table, a garden, a fire pit, or a chicken coop.

Make an agreement. How will you split expenses and maintenance duties? If one party moves or changes its mind about the share, who will pay to replace the fence? A written accord will set expectations, help settle anxieties, and solve disputes before they happen. Leaving things unspoken is asking for trouble.

Illustration by Trevor Burks.

This article first appeared in The GOOD Guide to Better Neighborhoods. You can read more of the guide here, or you can read more of the GOOD Neighborhoods Issue here.

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