Re: Cohousing vs. HOA Communities
From: Pete Holsberg (
Date: Tue, 30 Aug 2005 13:46:18 -0700 (PDT)
aamato [at] wrote:

I just picked up these bulleted points from the website.  They are
basically how cohousing is different from a conventional HOA.  However, it would
be very interesting to see how some of these characteristics might be worked
into conventional situations....By the way there is a forming cohousing group in
central New Jersey called, I think, Garden State Cohousing.

Thanks, Jersey Girl! I'm interested in coho that has been in existence for at 
least 5 years. Are there any of those in NJ?

1. PARTICIPATORY PROCESS. Future residents participate in the design of the community so that it meets their needs. Some cohousing communities are initiated or driven by a developer, which may actually make it easier for more future residents to participate. However, a well-designed, pedestrian-oriented community without resident participation in the planning may be "cohousing-inspired," but it is not a cohousing community.

Here's what gets me. Suppose X, who has lived in a coho for N years decides to sell his house to me. I haven't participated in the design. Will I experience the coho differently from the original owners?

3. COMMON FACILITIES. Common facilities are designed for daily use, are an integral part of the community, and are always supplemental to the private residences. The common house typically includes a common kitchen, dining area, sitting area, children's playroom and laundry and may also have a workshop, library, exercise room, crafts room and/or one or two guest rooms. Except on very tight urban sites, cohousing communities often have playground equipment, lawns, and gardens as well. Since the buildings are clustered, larger sites may retain several or many acres of undeveloped shared open space.

We have similar facilities. A clubhouse with indoor and outdoor pools, two card rooms, a "fitness center", a pool room, a TV/library, a large dining/meeting hall and a kitchen. Puttin ggree, tennis courts, bocce courts.

4. RESIDENT MANAGEMENT. Cohousing communities are managed by their residents. Residents also do most of the work required to maintain the property, participate in the preparation of common meals and meet regularly to develop policies and do problem-solving for the community.

Are these management duties done by volunteers? How large can a coho becone before the "town meeting" form of "government gets unwieldy?

5. NON-HIERARCHICAL STRUCTURE AND DECISION-MAKING. In cohousing communities there are leadership roles, but no one person or persons who has authority over others. Most groups start with one or two "burning souls" but as people join the group, each person takes on one or more roles consistent with his or her skills, abilities or interests. Most cohousing groups make all of their decisions by consensus, and although many groups have a policy for voting if consensus cannot be reached after a number of attempts, it is very rarely or never necessary to resort to voting.
We have an elected board of trustees who have absolute power over our lives simply because the documents which we (mostly unwittingly) signed at closing gave them that power.

6. NO SHARED COMMUNITY ECONOMY. The community is not a source of income for its members. Occasionally, a cohousing community will pay one of its own members to do a specific (usually time limited) task, but more typically the task will simply be considered to be that member's contribution to the shared responsibilities .
Our board and our committees are comprised of unpaid volunteers, too.

How do you enter into contracts with contractors for work on the common areas? Who owns the common areas? How much does an owner pay for "dues" for the common areas? How is that determined? How is collection enforced?

Are the contracts that original owners sign whnen the coho is formed binding on the next buyer of a house?


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