Re: Filtering members in a forming community
From: Tree Bressen (
Date: Sat, 3 Feb 2007 01:30:40 -0800 (PST)
Hi Nathan & folks,

At least on the surface, it doesn't seem that a coop would be what we're looking for.

Here are some quotes from the National Association of Housing Cooperatives website.

           "Are co-ops allowed to discriminate?
Like any other form of housing, cooperatives may not discriminate based on the protected classes listed in the Fair Housing Act, which includes race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, or disability. Historically, the basic cooperative principles include both open membership without restriction as provided by law and non-partisan in politics and non-sectarian in religion."

Our group would never discriminate based on those factors. Indeed we welcome diversity of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, or disability. What would be determining factors for membership would be shared values and lifestyle implementation of those shared values. We want to be surounded by folks who embrace caretaking of the Earth, low impact and sustainable stewardship of the land. Dedication to living permaculture principles. Folks endeavoring to produce more than they consume. Because we'll be living and working together most of our time, we need to be able to select members we feel fit with our goals and lifestyle. But, from the above quote, I gather that co-ops are in the same boat as cohousers with regards to not being able to select members. I don't see how a housing co-op would would be the answer in that respect.

Maybe there are co-op variations but it still seems that the cohousing model might be the closest for our puroses. Peace to You- Nathan

First of all, cohousing and co-ops are not mutually exclusive. While most cohousing groups are organized as condo associations, a few (like Winslow, i believe?) are co-ops.

I live in a co-op and we are definitely selective about members. I have posted before on this list about how the cohousing movement successfully challenged my earlier beliefs in the necessity of membership screening, and that i've come to see that open membership basically works fine in cohousing (at least as well as screened membership does in other intentional communities). However, i continue to believe in the importance of membership screening for my community, which is a 9-person group sharing one big house together. We are careful about who we invite in and in my opinion, that care has mostly paid off.

It's true that in our case, choosing to incorporate as a co-op made us ineligible for conventional financing and we ended up creating a private community revolving loan fund instead, which was a lot of work but also very fulfilling. See for more info on this.

I went to some workshops on Fair Housing laws at the National Association of Housing Cooperatives conference last year, and as far as i can tell it's perfectly legal to be selective as long as you're not discriminating against any of the federally protected categories of people.

All that aside, i heartily agree with the other postings that urged you to put your values out strongly and let that call in the folks who are aligned with your vision, and to emphasize that over screening out undesirables. I'm just trying to say that's not the only way to do things, and that your group might have reasons for choosing another path, as you described.

Rob wrote:
Creating and sustaining a business is a huge and difficult task, creating a
community is huge and difficult task. Doing both at the same time, with one
interdependent upon the other is, in my opinion,  not a good idea. Almost
every proposal I have seen for such things in the past the 20 years has

I agree that it's huge and difficult. However, that doesn't mean it's impossible. There are communities that are successfully running businesses, and you can learn from them what's worked. For examples, see the FEC communities (, Earthaven, Breitenbush, Alpha Farm, Lost Valley, Sunrise Ranch, and a whole lot of religious communities that i'm not that familiar with. Keep asking around and these will lead you to more. Sometimes it's just a few people running a business together within the context of a larger intentional community, such as the woodworking business (called Heartwood Design) at Shannon Farm.

For some more general info: Our system involves elements from several models- cohousing, intentional communities and ecovillages.

For example- from cohousing: the balance of privately owned parcels (individual homes) and communally shared space (community center/common house, school,workshop, etc.)

From intentional communities: Sharing a livelihood-working together in (optional) communal business(es), also schooling our own children,etc.

From ecovillages: We'll be rural. We desire to grow/raise as much of our own food and consumables. We will utilize solar, water, wind, biofuels to become as energy self-sufficient as possible.

  I'm also wondering if there are any other groups out there like this.

Have y'all considered just joining Earthaven en masse? Or Dancing Rabbit, a little further away in Missouri. :-)



Walnut St. Co-op


Tree Bressen
1680 Walnut St.
Eugene, OR 97403
(541) 484-1156
tree [at]

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