Re: Joint Ownereship of a "Pod" Unit
From: CHRISTINE COE (CHRISTINECOE1MSN.COM)
Date: Sat, 11 Dec 2004 10:29:51 -0800 (PST)
Hi, Cohousing-Listers (as opposed to the Listless?)--

I'm not sure what your designs are like, but if they're like ours the thing 
you're proposing seems to have a fairly straightforward answer.

Would having a "pod" unit need a separate kind of architecture than, say, a 
regular three bedroom unit?  I suppose you could make the case that each 
bedroom needed its own bathroom, but we all may remember school days when our 
"roomie" situations were similar.  In terms of keeping costs down, having a 
shared bathroom is an effective strategy.

In our three bedroom units, we designed them with a good-sized bedroom 
downstairs, along with a first-floor handicapped-equipped shower/bath in the 
bathroom.  This allows for an elderly person to live downstairs mainly, and not 
have to negotiate a daily staircase.  Your two upstairs "owners" could have a 
lower "buy-in" price, due to their relative inconvenience.  

My guess is the financing of such a thing would have one person named as the 
owner, who would then, in turn, write out equity share agreements with the 
other members of the household.  As any member left, you could have a mandatory 
three month vacate notice, during which time the whole community would be able 
to assist in finding a new member.  Of course, this is where a waiting list 
comes in handy.

This keeps your policies standardized as to the household units in the 
development.  You could weight the votes of each member of that household as 
one proxy vote.  You would have to decide, for purposes of consensus, what 
weight to attach to such a "1/3rd" vote (I know, all you committed consensus 
people are wincing!).  Or, the proxy vote could go to the person who holds the 
financial obligation for the unit with the bank, and the other members could 
just be active observers in the meetings (another wince!).

Should the arrangement become untenable sometime in the future, you have a 
regular three bedroom unit for sale.  I personally would not advise that your 
group assume the burden of designing a custom unit just for this purpose.  It 
puts too much of a disproportionate share of the time and money costs off onto 
the other members.  

You could have a group of "three buyers," however, decide on what easy 
remodeling changes they wanted to pay for on their own, after construction is 
signed off.  This gives them a chance to try things out the way they are, 
before deciding to spend valuable funds on doing things to their house which 
will make it harder to sell, if it comes to that.

I do applaud you for looking for ways to accommodate such requests.  If 
cohousing is to live down the criticism (deserved or not) of being (even 
unintentionally) for the relatively well-off, it will be through efforts like 
these.  

In our community, we are working together to fund a "guest" house (read 
"transitional") for people or families in crisis who are coming through a 
difficult time in life.  We as a group will decide who to bring in, under no- 
or low-rent circumstances from the local area, to assist in providing a 
stabilizing influence for them.  We can provide easy child care assistance, for 
example, to a single mother who needs to undergo vocational training or who has 
to work an odd shift for a while.  An expected stay would be from six months to 
two years.  We have a separate non-profit assigned to administer this house, as 
a voting equity member of our group.  We feel like combining cohousing efforts 
with social outreach is the most natural thing in the world.  You veterans 
already know what we're talking about!

Our project details are at 
www.bartcommunity.org<http://www.bartcommunity.org/>.  
Hope this inspires some creative thinking!

Guy Coe
Bartimaeus Cohousing Community
Bremerton, WA
360-692-8064
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