Re: Sweat Equity
From: Pablo Halpern (
Date: Wed, 20 Jul 94 11:33 CDT
> From: debbeh [at] Auto-trol.COM (Deborah Behrens)
> Highline Crossing is beginning to wrestle seriously with the issues aroun
> sweat equity.  How have your groups handled this?

First of all, unless you have a lot of skill already within your group, 
keep your ambitions in check. A friend of mine lives in a coop where SE was 
required. Ultimately, it cost them more than they saved. Improperly 
performed work had to be re-done at higher cost than if it had been done 
professionally to begin with. Also, it caused a general delay in the 
development, which cost them in financing costs. I have heard similar 
horror stories in other places. I recomend that you keep your SE to a small 
percentage of the development. I believe Dorit Fromm has a good treatment 
of the subject in her book, _Collaborative Communities_.

One way to avoid construction delays is to have the contractor leave 
certain things unfinished, for you to complete rather than having you work 
side-by-side. However, the bank will require that the buildings have a 
certificate of occupancy before giving you a mortgage, so this requires a 
minimum completion level. The common house does not require a certificate 
of occupancy, so it might be a good place to concentrate your efforts.

On a personal note, I have seen do-it-yourself jobs that I thought were 
abismal and others that I thought were a cut above most "professional" 
work. One disadvantage of using a lot of SE in the common house is that 
everybody has to live with the results. Individual houses, on the other 
hand allow for individual choice as to what to have professionally 

> a     Requiring X hours of SE by housing unit or by individual adults

This has to be done very carefully or it can become discriminatory. People 
vary as to their ability to do heavy work and a large minimum requirement 
can be a strain for many people. The friend I mentioned above uses a 
wheelchair and was unable to participate in the construction. She was given 
humiliating make-work for her sweat-equity. The fact that she was one of 
the founders and did a disproportionate amount of the organization was not 
credited to her SE.

> b     Some form of remuneration for SE work

This could work well, allowing people to trade off money for time, 
depending on their situation. A minimum required sweat equity combined with 
renumeration for anything above the minimum could work well. Obviously, the 
renumeration must be well below the market professional rate in order for 
any savings to materialize.

> c     Alternatives for those who can't (or won't) perform SE

Some combination of waivers for disability or age with a money-for-time 
arrangement can be crafted. Also, make sure your definition of SE is broad 
enough to include, e.g., accounting or planning, so that those without 
strong physical abilities can be included.

> d     What sorts of work are appropriately performed as SE

I don't know. As mentioned, it should be include non-construction work.

> e     How your solution has been influenced by specific talents in your 
> f     What about all the years of work put in in the early days of your 
>       being treated differently from the later physical labor, and 
>       work in general
> g     Pitfalls of using SE instead of expensive but skilled sub 
> h     any other SE issues I haven't thought of????

Good luck

- Pablo

Pablo Halpern              (508) 435-5274         phalpern [at]

New View Neighborhood Development, Acton, MA

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