|Re: Membership definitions||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Jeff Hobson (jhobsonigc.org)|
|Date: Tue, 15 Jun 1999 16:23:40 -0500|
Hey Cohousing-l mavens: Thanks for the great advice last week about membership definitions. I summarized it for my group. Here's the relevant part of what I wrote for them: There was some great advice, and I think I can summarize the suggestions as follows: "Membership" affects several things, which can be divided into 3 categories, each of which should be done differently: - Decision-making - by consensus, where individuals have blocking power but the "fallback" voting, if any, may be by "owners" - Allocation of Capital Costs - by unit/household - Allocation of Operating Costs - there was no firm recommendation from list-members; some say by individual, some say by household. I suggest by individual. The following are the arguments for these points (including some quotes from people's emails). DECISION-MAKING Many people pointed out that if the group makes decisions by consensus, then the "individual" must have power to block consensus. The most eloquent statement to that end came from Liz Stevenson of Southside Park Cohousing (Sacramento, CA): "Having half a vote if you're part of a couple is like going back in time to when there was no women's suffrage! Houses don't make decisions that people need to live with, people do." There are some dissensions to this point of view. Stephanie Fassnacht of Village Cohousing (Madison, WI) says that they only allow "unit-owners" to participate in voting and/or block consensus. Short of blocking or voting, any resident or waiting-list member can participate in discussions, activities, and decision-making. Lynn Nadeau from Rosewind says they count households for quorum, but that individuals participate in decision-making. Many cohousing groups also have "fallback" processes in case consensus fails (Lynn says they have never used it in 10 years of decision-making). These are often something like 2/3, 3/4, or consensus minus 2, or something like that. Rob Sandelin, cohousing guru from the Seattle area, points out that: "If you fall back to a voting scenario, odds are high the group will be conflicted, and your legal membership definition as defined in your cooperative or condo docs will determine the voting process. This should be pretty clear or you may end up in a world of courts and lawyers, the worst case scenario, but not without precedent." Rob also says that for legal documents, "If you go Co-op you can have every individual be a member, if you go condo, then each condo will get one membership to be divided amoung co-owners." However, lest we put too much stock in the legal documents, Rob reminds us that while we need some legal definition somewhere, "you can create your own membership and group process outside of these documents, almost all groups do. Just be sure the banks don't see this if you document it." Also, Rob points out that especially in the early stages of a group, we need good definitions of how someone becomes a member: "You might want to clearly define who has control of your process, especially in a group that is just forming. If you let random people wander in have a controlling voice, you may find yourself led around by the nose by someone who will never become part of your group anyway. Common membership definitions are time and money, to be a member you have to attend x meetings and contribute $x amount in a non-refundable fee." Tom Pendleton from Washington, DC (I don't know if he's in a cohousing group) points out that we should not forget youth in the decision-making process. My conclusion: For decision-making, our process should be a consensus of individuals. For who can become a member, I agree in general with Carol's proposal. If we develop a fallback voting plan, I think it should be guided by which ownership structure (limited equity co-op or condo) we follow, so that's a future decision. CAPITAL COSTS Everyone says allocation of capital costs (building the place) should be done by UNIT, or perhaps "household." Rob Sandelin also points out that the ownership structure is also the legal structure that the banks & others will insist on seeing. My conclusion: I agree with everyone else. Allocate capital costs by unit. OPERATING COSTS There is no clear point of view from the cohousing-l list. A couple people said they allocate "condo unit" costs by unit, some said they allocate costs of running the community by individual. At N Street I know we did our "operating budget" by individual (with kids assessed at a lower, sliding scale, rate). My conclusion: I continue to feel that we should allocate operating costs by individual. A 4-person family in a large unit has a lot more impact, and gets more benefit from the community, than a 1-person family in a small studio. Same with the comparison between a group of 4 single adults living together versus a 2-person family. This will be true for food costs, pieces of equipment, maintenance, etc. OVERALL CONCLUSION: Right now we are trying to decide how to define membership for decision-making and perhaps allocation of operating costs - this is the informal decision-making body the banks don't have to know about. We are not yet at the stage of allocating capital costs; when we are, we will have to be guided by legal documents we will have to draw up at that time. Jeff Hobson Bay Area Transportation Choices Forum 1915 Essex Street Berkeley, CA 94703 phone: 510-540-7280 fax: 510-540-7229 email: jhobson [at] igc.org WWW: www.priven.sf.ca.us/forum www.priven.sf.ca.us/coalition
- Re: Membership definitions, (continued)
- Re: Membership definitions Diane Simpson, June 15 1999
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