Re: A waiting LIST or a waiting POOL?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2012 05:17:41 -0700 (PDT)
On 26 Jun 2012, at 6:05 AM, peterpiper [at] wrote:

> We've decided to have a waiting pool, rather than a 
> first-come-first-served list so we can choose the most appropriate 
> person for any vacancy.

Choosing the most appropriate is like saying, "I will have a perfect life 
because I know how to make appropriate choices." Unless you have a lot of 
experience and full information about your choices your ability to make 
appropriate choices will be an illusion and create potentially huge rifts in 
the community.

Before move-in, first come first served. After move-in, the seller decides, 
assuming  you are an individual ownership model.

Predicting who would be what kind of community member after ~12 years of living 
in cohousing and reading this list for 16+ years, I couldn't predict from 
pre-move in behavior who would be a good community member. Behavior changes in 
a new environment.

> Appendix our membership allocation criteria

I think these are good things to think about but a few points from experience:

> 1. The applicant's needs based on (dis)ability, mobility and other 
> relevant medical issues

This requires full disclosure and medical judgements you probably shouldn't be 
making and would probably not be right about anyway. Our most physically 
challenged members contribute far more to the community in many more ways than 
many of our least physically challenged. 

The most you can do is be honest with the person and yourselves about what you 
can and cannot provide, and look at your materials to be sure you aren't 
presenting yourself as being a support service.

> 2. Suitability of available property to the applicant’s household size.

Little relationship here between size of unit and number of people. This is 
changing as units resell so the larger units do tend to have more people than 
the smaller, but aside from preferring that 6 people not live in a one bedroom 
unit, you can't control this. 

We had a seller choose a single graduate student for one of our smallest units, 
615 SF, who a year later had at least 4 people living in her unit. We never 
really knew how many people were living there.

> 3. How the applicant would contribute towards building a diverse 
> community in accordance with our values.

Totally unpredictable results however you define diversity. Is a person 
culturally diverse if their skin is a different color? You need more couples so 
you choose the couple and they divorce a year later.

So you choose the native Guatamalan over the American and then find that you 
never see the Guatamalan because they spend all their time off-site with their 
Guatamalan friends. Do no work. Attend no meals. Speak little English and have 
very different standards of maintenance. Gives diversity a bad name. 

Or they do not believe in consensus because they have lived in a dictatorship 
and argue for majority vote in every meeting.

> 4. How the applicants skills and experience would benefit the community.

Very unpredictable because you can't predict who will use those skills once 
they are moved in. One person who moved in was touted as a great cook. Their 
first move was to renovate the kitchen in their unit so it could be better 
designed. The person has stepped into our kitchen exactly once that I know of. 

> 5. How the applicants income/savings would affect the sum total of net 
> incomes across the project.

No predicting this and none of your business. People lose their jobs all the 
time. And others have hidden trust funds.

All you need to know is if they are mortgage worthy — and only a bank can 
determine that. You really don't want to know what everyone's incomes are or to 
appear that the nature of your community is related to people's incomes, or 
lack thereof.

> 6. How quickly the applicant could take on the lease agreement.

This is reasonable but not easily determined. You have only their word until 
they actually put money on the line.

> 7. Length of time in the waiting pool

Requires transparent, well kept records and trumps any other criteria because 
this one is the only one that can be objectively measured.

> 8. The voluntary contribution the applicant had made to the community.

Means nothing. Once they are moved in, they may do nothing. And what if their 
volunteering is so offensive you don't want them? How do  you keep people from 

A reward for volunteering will create suspicions that people who donate time 
are just trying to curry favor so they will be chosen.

> 9. Any other contributing factors.

The views in the community of what is a contributing factor will be far ranging 
and lead to many arguments.

A final question would be, do you really want to spend the time required to do 
this? it will be a huge headache.

I've been assuming you were talking about a homeowner situation but even if 
this is a rental, the best you can do is require financial disclosures and 
choose the person who appears to be the most reliable in some sense. And fully 
educate them about what you will expect of them once they move in.

If this is a rental these considerations become a bit more understandable 
because rentals are in much greater demand, but the predictability of behavior 
is still the same big problem. Better to stress what will be expected of the 
person and how those expectations will be "enforced" for want of a better word.

Sharon Villines, Washington DC
"Behavior is determined by the prevailing form of decision making." Gerard 

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