RE: Economic SUpport in Cohousing
From: Rob Sandelin (Exchange) (
Date: Thu, 21 Dec 1995 11:24:49 -0600
Mike Mariner wrote asking if any cohousing groups provided any sort of 
economic support during hard times for members.

I am unaware of any cohousing groups which provide, or would be willing to 
provide direct economic support for their members. One of the basic 
unwritten, but very real tenets of cohousing is economic self reliance. 
There are lots of work at home, or self employed folks living in cohousing 
but I have heard of
no cohousing groups which have community run businesses which employ 
members.  Of course I don't hear or know about everything either so I would 
be grateful to learn of any which do.

In that most cohousing groups are set up as condominiums, with individuals 
being responsible for their own mortgage, it requires more direct support 
than in a coop situation with a group mortgage, where the group can adjust 
the payments of everyone a little bit to cover for a non-paying share.

I would think that a group which would do this for each other would be 
pretty close community, more so than most cohousing that I am aware of.  

At Winslow there was a woman who couldn't pay her share of the group 
mortgage and was eventually evicted by the group, a very painful thing for 
all involved.  (There was a lot more to it other than just the fact that she 
didn't pay her mortgage).  

My general impression is that the mortgages in most built from scratch 
cohousing projects are so high, that it would be a pretty big burden for the 
group to assume someone elses mortgages, at least for long unless you had a 
group mortgage.

For several years at Sharingwood we had an account for the commonhouse which 
accumulated several thousand dollars.   We paid large assessments (such as 
the survey, legal or road paving bills) out of this account and let those 
who couldn't pay right away borrow from that account.  Of course now that 
the commonhouse is under construction, all those funds are used up. 

One idea I have heard about is for a percentage of the profit from sale of a 
unit go into a community rainy day fund.  That way, as units sell, part of 
the profit goes back into the community and an account gets built up which 
the community could use as a loan fund or support or whatever. (We don't do 
Rainy day funds in WA, they get spent too soon....)

At Sharingwood we had one person who was perpetually in economic decline, 
who borrowed tens of thousands of dollars from a couple of members, got 
foreclosed on by the bank and dissappeared, bailing on his debts to the 
community members.  He just got hauled to court on some other related 
matters in another part of the state, and we all found out he owes LOTS of 
people, lots of money.  Mr. Bad debt.  

So I would advise compassion and commonsense when loaning group money to 
help out individuals.

Rob Sandelin

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