Re: recruitment screening and rentals
From: R.N. Johnson (
Date: Mon, 18 Mar 2013 11:17:08 -0700 (PDT)
I am curious about the legal challenge with a forming group that you mentioned.

Maybe we have been lucky, but we have not had any post-move in prospective 
buyers make it through all the meetings, meal and work parties who then turned 
out to be consistent free-loaders. We try to have people commit to a committee 
before they buy, and have them begin work, and join us at meals while in 
escrow. The three households that joined after initial move in are all very 
active, hardworking folk.  I have several thoughts on why that might be: 1) I 
live in a very small community, and my experience is that peer pressure is more 
effective in a small group, 2) If we notice someone's conspicuous absence from 
meetings or lack of follow through on tasks, we follow up, and 3), we have a 
very unusual loan and legal structure, and I suspect the faint of heart are 
scared away.  The only serious participation issue we have had is with a 
founding member who lived out of town and did not take an active part in either 
all the early discussions and decision
 making or in all the work to find and buy the place, and that is a mistake we 
will not make again. 

Many of us, myself included, have had periods of  community sloth, where we 
were not meeting our full community responsibilities.  At various times we have 
had a member of the facilitation committee and /or whatever community or work 
committee they were on go talk to the sloth in question with the aim us getting 
back to full participation.  Among the questions asked are: how is your life 
going? (is there some illness/stress/ event that is keeping you from getting 
the  common house toilet scrubbed/ making it to meetings?) Has your 
life/schedule changed in a way that makes your assigned tasks difficult to 
fulfill? Is there another task/ committee that would work better for you? Do 
you like to work on your own or in a group?   We have also had good luck 
assigning a person or to invite the "sloth" to meetings/work party/ affinity 
group tasks- no guilt, no recriminations, just a friendly invitation.  It takes 
a little work, and tact, but has had very
 good results in most cases.

The community has taken a major role in recruitment and sales when a member has 
decided to sell, and we are very clear from the get go that if anyone leaves 
the community, we have all agreed to find someone who will be a full 
participant.  We work with a real estate agent who is interested in the idea of 
cohousing and makes sure that potential buyers talk with community members 
about what is expected before making an offer.  All that said. we don't have 
any legal recourse to prevent a seller from selling to a particular buyer.

Randa Johnson
New Brighton Cohousing
Aptos, CA

 From: Ann Zabaldo <zabaldo [at]>
To: R.N. Johnson <cohoranda [at]>; Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at]> 
Sent: Friday, March 15, 2013 11:06 AM
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ recruitment screening and rentals
Hello all --

For built communities, I am most curious about how you tell the "chaf" that 
your community is not the community for them.  If they want to buy a home and 
the seller wants to sell ... how is it that you keep "chaff" from mixing w/ 
your resident "wheat?"

I'm especially thinking of circumstances where charges of discrimination can 
figure in -- and yes it has happened this is not a "what if?" -- how do  you 
handle "chaff" w/ a legal charge? (This has NOT happened in my home community.  
It was in a forming community.)

BTW -- we also have a process of inviting prospective owners to dinner, a 
general meeting, a team meeting, meeting w/ community members, etc etc etc and 
I've heard these prospective neighbors EXTOLLING the virtues of living in 
community and how they will participate and contribute.  After signing the 
papers, getting the keys to their new home ... never see evidence of 
participation.  Don't come to meetings, don't serve on teams, don't come to 
work days but they enjoy using all the parts of the community and participating 
in social events.

Do you have folks like these in your community?  If so, what conversation(s) 
are you having w/ them? 

Note:  some of the worst "chaff" we have in the community are founding members 
... some of the very best "wheat" are renters and "newcomers."  It's not all 
one way ...My guess is a lot of this can be avoided earlier on by having 
serious, in depth discussions about what individuals expect in terms of 
participation which lead to guidelines.  If you have a set are guidelines ... 
are you willing to call people to accountability around them?

Why didn't we have these discussions during development?  Quite possibly 
because we all thought we were on the same page, we had stars in our eyes or 
... we were just too stressed from marketing, sales, design, etc. to see what 
was out there. 

Now ... we have the luxury of having some communities 25+ years experience to 
draw on.  We now know that development of a cohousing community is a short 
sometimes painful 2-5 years (or greater!) but it's over.  The "living happily 
ever after" is the real focus of organizing efforts.  What you do in the 
development stage to create your social/community norms -- your community 
culture -- you will live w/ a very very long time.  It's really hard to change 
once people have moved in.

I'd like to hear from others on this.

Best --

Ann Zabaldo
Takoma Village Cohousing
Washington, DC
Principal, Cohousing Collaborative, LLC
Falls Church VA

On Mar 15, 2013, at 1:40 PM, R.N. Johnson wrote:

> When we were forming, we found that asking potential members to get involved 
> separated the wheat from the chaff  pretty well. Now that we are in 
> residence, we ask new people to come to a  meal,  a committee meeting, a 
> business meeting and if possible, a work party or social event.  That gives 
> us a good chance to get to know them and vice versa, and to see them in 
> several different environments.  When they have been through the various 
> events both sides have a pretty good idea of what they are getting into.  
> I would add that it is a serious warning sign if someone  believes they are 
> always right.  Now most of us are pretty sure we are on the side of the 
> righteous most of the time, but some people always know best, and these folk, 
> however pleasant, create havoc in a consensus system.   People who are always 
> right cannot let the smallest detail go against their inner convictions, and 
> will hold up everything from where to locate to the color of the mailbox to 
> the name of the finance committee. They may have tremendous skills to offer 
> the community, but if they can't listen to others, it just won't work. 
> Renters can add a lot to a cohousing community. Many of the problems 
> attributed to renters have much more to do with absentee landlords. If people 
> within the community are renting out rooms or units, they will likely 
> continue to take good care of the properties, and will have a stake in 
> resolving any difficulties. We ask anyone renting to find tenants who are 
> interested in participating.  We have two long term renters at New Brighton 
> who have participated in the community for years, and aside from not coming 
> to business meetings, are as much involved in the community as any of us (and 
> more than some owners).  Allowing rentals will make it easier for people of 
> different incomes, ages and stages in life to participate in your community.  
>  Our most recent owner member came as a renter and loved it so much she 
> decided to buy in. 
> Randa Johnson
> New Brighton Cohousing
> Aptos, CA
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