Re: Rental policies
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 12 Nov 2011 11:44:26 -0800 (PST)
On 10 Nov 2011, at 12:27 PM, Diana Carroll wrote:

> Laws force people who want to do something NOT to (or TO do something they
> do NOT want to.)

I understand what you mean but most laws regulate living together so everyone 
in the community has the same understandings and expectations. Particularly in 
cohousing we adopt them by consensus, they are community agreements designed 
for the welfare of everyone in the community.

As odd or unfair as many of us think zoning laws and construction codes are, 
whether we agree with them or not there is usually a good reason they were made 
by the communities that made them. 

If there are no such understandings, it isn't a community. Some understandings 
can just exist but the larger the community and the more complex and the more 
it is involved with affecting the basic needs for food, shelter, clean air, 
personal boundaries, and relationships, the more they need to be written down 
and formally accepted.

I live in a community where we have had a number of new people move in who are 
wonderful and very energetic and very involved. Some new people just moved in 
and melted into the woodwork so we didn't really notice a difference. The 
active newbies have pointed out to us how many expectations we have that are 
not written down. One flurry was over a new person, here in Dec for the first 
time, reserving the whole CH for an afternoon and evening between Christmas and 
New Years. Another on Christmas Day night. Another on Christmas Eve. No one, 
literally no one had ever done this before. 

We have movie madness every night between Christmas Day Night and New Years's 
Eve — someone chooses and shows a film often on a theme like comedies, old 
classics, etc. Sometimes a double feature with an early movie for kids. Since 
people are not teaching, kids are off from school, and others have short weeks 
or days, we leave the CH free for spontaneous and non-exculsive events. There 
is almost always events on Christmas Eve and during the day but no one 
organizes it until the last minute. Some of us were really shocked when the CH 
was "taken away" but the new people couldn't have known.

Some new residents have been very frustrated to come up against so many 
"agreements" that aren't written anywhere. Since they are often told different 
things by different people, they want things written down. And because many of 
the older residents don't like to have to start over every time a new person 
"starts over" we want them written down too.

That is not to suggest that everything being written down is possible or even 
desirable but avoiding it won't make a strong community unless you are very 
small, have simple interactions, do not own property, are not liable for member 
actions, etc. To view these agreements as forcing people into behaving certain 
ways is counter-community building. 

I am always amazed that people think they can't question rules. My own approach 
is to want the agreement/policy/rule/law but also to have a process for 
exceptions. So members can post a message that says, I understand that our 
agreement is such and such but this situation is different and I need to _____. 
If you have objections please let me know before ____.

No agreement/policy/rule/law will cover all needs so there will be exceptions 
but having them provides stability and common understandings.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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