Re: Generating income to offset dues
From: Raines Cohen (
Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2007 08:49:22 -0800 (PST)

Asking for donations is a great way to open up the possibility of
contributions that offset some of the costs of community without the
barriers it creates (and new costs/obligations) of charging mandatory
fees for things.

Note that as a California home-owners association (HOA), any
fee-for-service income (other than regular dues) like guest room fees
that are mandatory, space rental, etc. are subject to California and
federal income tax at a rate of at least 30%, so the net benefit to
the community is greatly reduced, and if you look at where those taxes
go (a hat-tip to the recent thread on some other controversial
governmental functions), is it an obligation or opportunity for the
community to reduce its support for those in every lawful manner?

In many of the cohousing neighborhoods I've visited (including the one
I live in), this topic brings up issues of fairness, which is a core
value for many communities. If someone makes unequal use of community
facilities, is it the community's role to incentivize or mandate
"fair" pay corresponding to the use? This model often has some
reductionist elements, assuming a scarcity of resources and that every
night a guestroom bed is slept in reduces the useful life of that bed,
for example, and that a pricing scheme provides a feedback mechanism
that can prevent resource monopolization and manages the competition.

A community searching for alternative approaches might look at other
values and benefits from conversational, relational, and other methods
of resource management. We can ask ourselves:

* How is my quality of life (or perhaps even property value) enhanced
by having use of shared resources in my community? If I didn't have
the community guestroom(s), how much more would I be spending to have
the extra room in my house? How much more energy would I be using to
heat/cool it? Multiply by the number of units in the community.

* To what extent do I gain from having a cohousing neighbor's
relative/friend or a visiting cohouser visiting? Do they help cook a
meal and/or clean, or contribute in other ways? (financially being one
way.. and might they potentially contribute more if we don't set a
limit or "expected" amount?) Do I make new connections and learn
things over common dinner? Do I get the opportunity to stay elsewhere
in community when I travel?

* Are there some things like the toolroom or rice-cooker that I use
more than others? Should I be paying more for those? Which values are
more core to our group: fairness or cooperation? mutual support or
accountability? openness or privacy? Certainty or opportunity? Have
these changed since move-in? What have we learned from each other,
about ourselves? Is there trust we can rely on?

* How much community effort (psychic as well as hours) goes into
creating and operating systems for tracking and collecting extra fees?
What's really important in the big picture?

Money is a tool that can be helpful in these matters. Let's just keep
in mind that it's not the only one at our disposal.

Raines Cohen, Cohousing Coach
Planning for Sustainable Communities
at Berkeley (CA) Cohousing
where we are putting out our fire extinguishers today for their annual
onsite professional inspection, refilling, and servicing, achieving
greater safety at a fraction of the cost individual service would run.

Convener, East Bay Cohousing
Where I was part of a full house mightily impressed with Katie
McCamant's Cohousing Partners PowerPoint presentation in Berkeley last
week, talking less about architecture and much more about the people
and the greenness of the movement. We've come a long way since the
old-fashioned slide-projector talks.

Regional Organizer, Northern California Cohousing
Where we got to walk through a site Sunday in a North Bay New-Urbanist
"one earth" village in the planning approval process (1900 units with
no net new water! Pushing way beyond LEED standards to reduce net
impacts down to a level 1/5th that of typical Americans) that may
include one or two cohousing neighborhoods; a group has been meeting
for a year and is preparing to become more visible/public. The
developer's Chief Sustainability Officer lives in cohousing already,
making it easy to connect, but he advised the group to "shop around"
and get informed about other potential sites so they can choose the
village site rather than just fall into it.

Boardmember, Fellowship for Intentional Community
Publishing the Communities Directory and Communities magazine

Presenter, The Climate Project
Bringing Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" slideshow and conversation
about the link between community and sustainability to DC next week
with a presentation 12/29 at Eastern Village Cohousing

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