Re: Non Participating Households
From: Kay Argyle (
Date: Thu, 3 Aug 2000 12:11:21 -0600 (MDT)
Most of our nonparticipants either have left quite voluntarily, or have
been add-ons to an otherwise participating household -- adult kids,
roommates.  I'm not sure how useful our experience would be for a situation
where somebody needs to be encouraged to move, but for what's it's worth

A request from the welcoming committee to attend an orientation meeting,
several months after he moved in, prompted one nonparticipant to leave.

One nonparticipant we hope may become active again, if some things can be
worked through, but the problem was never that she didn't want to.

Households where a member joined cohousing only to please their spouse can
be problematic. We've had two.  Notice the past tense.

Two households wanting out sold to other cohousing residents. One new owner
wanted to buy us time to find someone suitable, and was generous enough to
put his own money on the line; it's rented, and the present family is
fitting in nicely.  

The other unit changed hands almost a year after the original owner quit
participating.  The purchaser needed a place for her disabled son to stay. 
She consulted the community before they closed; the question came up if
that was necessary, and the person most familiar with our CC&R said no, the
owner could sell to whomever he wanted.  There was concern expressed that
we were losing the possibility of having a contributing member, but having
26 units it wasn't as large a concern as for a smaller community (plus we'd
done without participation from that unit for a year, he'd been patient
about recruiting efforts, and we didn't want to interfere with her efforts
to cope with a difficult situation).

I certainly think it would be fair to charge a higher condo fee to people
who don't do the work that holds the costs down, although I haven't been
able to persuade anyone here of that idea.  There's this notion that people
work because they "want" to.  Sorry, no.  A lot of the time I work out of a
sense of responsibility to the community; I'd much rather be doing
something, *anything* else.  I've cut back pretty sharply on what I'm
willing to do, because I was getting resentful and didn't like the feeling.

Our community came up with a document that defines participation primarily
as meeting attendance (talking), committee membership (talking), plus ten
to twenty hours a *year* of actual work (pathetic).  If you put in that
many hours a *week* but find meetings an agony or a pernicious waste of
time, you're "not participating." (A certain finger-pointer, whose own
participation wouldn't have borne examination, has gone, and I'm not sorry,
except that it wasn't sooner.)

I managed to get a statement added recognizing that the community depends
on "voluntary" work outside the scope of the definition and couldn't run
without it, but I was (am) still unhappy. I feel this definition sets up a
certain style of participation as superior to others.  Meetings are so
"important" we keep attendance records, but we don't want to make anybody
feel bad by keeping track of actual work (neither hours nor even if the job
gets done).

It's not only unfair, it's ignores reality.  Our landscaping is mostly
thistles, dirt, and debris, because landscape work other than lawn-mowing
is "voluntary", and it's too much for the handful of people who will do it
on that basis.

In formulating any participation agreement, please recognize there are
different forms of participation that the community needs -- discussion,
monetary, social, labor.  Expect something from everyone, but try to let
people choose.

Wasatch Commons

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