Re: Private use of Common Space
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sun, 18 Sep 2005 10:50:22 -0700 (PDT)

On Sep 18, 2005, at 12:52 PM, Jeanne Goodman, JP Cohousing wrote:

Wow! You don't rent out your common space at all. That's a surprise. Do you find your common house is underutilized or well used? Do you often get approached by clubs and organizations asking to use the space?

I think it is well utilized. Obviously there are days when it isn't used but with the great room opening on to the TV room, kids room, sun room, laundry room, kitchen, and mail area, it is rarely completely deserted for long. For many of our units the commonhouse is like a "lobby" in a hotel. You have to go through it to get home and everyone goes there to get mail.

But it is frequently used and increasingly, I would say. If we rented, I think there would be complaints about lack of time for resident activities.

Having "outside" groups use the commonhouse changes the feeling of the rooms. Now when we walk through it feels like ours and we feel comfortable with whom ever is there. We have gotten to know other people's extended families and know when it is a birthday party for someone, etc. I think we know everyone in the Electric Vehicle group that one member has meet here often.

So are your team meetings held in the common house? What are some of your other uses, besides common meals?

Team meetings.
Membership meetings.
Community and small group meals. People often do takeout and stop in the commonhouse to eat before proceeding to units. People order pizza and eat in the commonhouse.
Family reunions.
Birthday parties galore.
Occasional one time meetings of disaster relief groups or other crisis organizing.
Large group TV or Video watching.

Even events that are taking place in the living room like TV or moving watching also use the kids room for kids to play and the kitchen to set up snacks. Sometimes there is a simultaneous kids movie shown in the game room.

Next Saturday we have a Lego Club meeting. We were given two huge bags of Legos and need to sort and play. I'm suggesting that we do a project like build a city that we make in parts -- each person designing their own and that we then exhibit it for a week at a time to be determined. The legos are in the game room so older kids and adults can play with them any time but the room is small so more than two or three need to move to the dining room.

We have a 10,000 piece puzzle to put together also. That will take the whole room of tables for a week. I vote for a puzzle marathon but we haven't worked it out yet.

We are planning on getting a movie screen and DVD projector so we can watch films in the great room.

While most people do schedule these events (not takeout meals), if we had a lot of rentals it would cramp our ability to have last minute things happen. It wouldn't be fun. Having to reserve your living room in order to use it or to have a general sense of when someone else you live with iis not a good feeling.

But that would mean if I had a bunch of friends come over to visit, we could see if the living room was available. If I wanted to have my book club meet in the great room, and it was free, it would be no problem. You don't do that though?

We do that all the time. What we require is that if someone wants to have a book club every Tuesday night in the living room forever, they have to have full community approval. In time it has happened that no one has asked to do this because it just isn't feasible. There are too many book clubs!

But everyone takes friends there if it is available. One woman is having her family to dinner tonight and they will eat in the great room where the kids can use the kids room. And it isn't exclusive. If I had 3 friends over and wanted to sit in the sun room and play cards, I would just check with her to be sure it was alright.

Please tell me how this works. (And I hope my reaction hasn't offended. In re-reading it I wondered if it had an accusatory tone. I don't mean for it to. I'm just trying to figure out how this works and to figure out what we need to do.

It's important to figure this out for yourselves. In smaller towns, I've heard, the commonhouse is the only community space available so it has become the "center of town" so to speak. But we are a larger community (43 units) and our units are small. Since we are in an urban area, if we started renting the space we could probably rent it every day!

It took a few years to work this out. Some people moved in believing that the commonhouse would be rented out and that would lower our condo costs. We do have members who hold their office retreats there and they do make donations, but the openness of the space and kids running around, makes it not the first choice of people who want quiet and dignity.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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