Re: sweat equity
From: School of Mathematics, U of MN (
Date: Wed, 3 Aug 94 13:37 CDT
On Wed, 3 Aug 94 10:18 CDT, 
fassnach [at]  <cohousing-l [at]> wrote:

>  We at Porchlight Cohousing are in the process of developing some of
>our basic, defining documents.  Associated with the definition of
>membership, we wanted to include some sort of definition of seniority.
>Seniority, we thought, should be based both on the number of months
>that equity payments (of at least the minimum amount) are made, and on
>the amount of sweat equity contributed.  But how to measure sweat
>equity?  If we just count hours, then inefficient work can be
>"rewarded" just for inefficiency.  But maybe this is something we
>shouldn't really be worrying about.

At Monterey CoHousing seniority has been defined, but I'm not sure it ever 
was used.  When we finally got to the stage of having a site and recruiting 
became necessary, it was decided that the "founding" members, those that 
were involved in acquiring the site and put money down for the downpayment,
would have "seniority".  Members joining later were also required to 
put money down to the level of the average contribution of the founding 
group.  They acquired seniority with the date when they were approved as 
members.  If there should be conflicts in unit selection, the plan was that 
seniority could be a factor. 

To be sure, there were considerable differences in the amount of sweat 
equity put in by the various people at all stages of the process.  
Generally and publicly, we don't worry about it.  This is because there are 
widely varying talents needed along the way of getting a development up and 
running.  I remember that at the beginning there were a few people who put 
in an inordinate amount of effort and work for us to make the closing date 
on the property.  But it is not necessary to put out at this level forever.
I have observed that people tend to stand back a bit when they start
feeling overloaded, and we encourage that.  Most often others will step in 
the breach.  In my own case, my health was bad for more than a year and I 
was not able to contribute as much as I saw was needed.  Now I'm feeling 
better again and I'm increasing the amount of my contribution steadily.  

As I see it, the important thing is not to drive things along to hard and 
to a point where the level of burnout in the people rises to high.  Judy 
Baxter, in this group, could say a word or two on this topic.  We have 
tried several times to deal with sweat equity of the type of work where 
someone normally gets paid for it, and/or cases where a member is giving a 
**lot** of his/her time.  The hard part was to define what type of work 
would merit compensation and where to draw the line so you don't get into a 
position where you virtually employ somebody and the next person putting 
in similar hours does it for nothing, so to speak.  As things stand now,
people rely on their own gut feelings to define what is a fair 
contribution.  In our group, people generally aren't too shy to ask others 
to join their work crew although some work has not been done due to a lack 
of willing hands and heads.

Monika Stumpf, Monterey CoHousing-Mpls, dept [at]

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