Re: Membership selection
From: Larry Israel (
Date: Fri, 22 Nov 1996 23:21:15 -0600
Marty Roberts asked:
> I am curious if any of the built communities out there ever experienced a
> situation something like this before you were built:
> *You have only a few units not spoken for
> *You feel there are not enough children or young families in the community
> *You have people interested in joining the community  or being associate
> members or on a waiting list that do not fit this profile.
> How were such people handled?  Or any ideas on how you might handle such a
> situation?

My answer is very similar to what Zev Paiss said.

Hopefully you have forseen this possibility and created some restrictions
on membership, *before* the people themselves were on board.  (Or else
you've decided that you can live with whatever household mix comes your

We didn't have hardly any children for the first several years, and just
kept hoping and trying to get them.  In addition to the usual targeted
membership outreach, we took two actions:

(1) We specified the percentage of the units which would be 1 bedroom, 2
bedroom, 3 bedroom, and 4 bedroom.  This was based on the mix of household
sizes that we wanted to achieve.  There may have been some flexibility to
these.  Later, when we had land and knew how many units there would be, the
percentages were translated into numbers of units of each size.  In the
end, before construction began, we had several households on the waiting
list who wanted 1 or 2 bedroom units, but our plan was fixed and they knew
it.  Before long (still before construction), we found households that
bought the remaining 3 and 4 bedroom units.  These larger units, of course,
are more likely to be taken by households that have kids, tho' not for

(2) We allocated some membership slots to households that included
children.  It's been so long ago that I can't remember the specifics, but
it worked roughly like this:  We will reserve 6 slots; our community will
have 23 units; so the maximum number of childless households we will allow
as members is 17.  This was done because we felt that we needed to set some
minimum standards, beyond which we would not go, for the makeup of the
community we were creating.  This was done fairly early on.  All
prospective members were informed of these policies, and knew if it could
affect their membership status.  In fact, it never came down to turning
anyone away or even got very close.

Ultimately, we got plenty of children in our group.  Once our project got
to a certain point where it looked like a nearly sure thing *to outsiders*
(after we got the land, and the approvals were nearly assured), people
started joining our group in droves, including households with kids.  Half
our households have children.

Without having a policy that sets a clear quantitative goal and specific
actions, I think it would have been unfair for us to refuse an associate or
prospective member.  Sure, we could have cut it off to anyone new at
whatever point in time we wanted, saying we're only taking households with
kids.  That would be another option for how to deal with it.  But once they
were already involved with the group, changing the rules and saying, "no,
we're sorry," would, I think, have been unethical.

Larry Israel
Puget Ridge Cohousing
Seattle WA

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