Re: Cohousing Helping Funds?
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Wed, 18 Dec 2013 06:46:29 -0800 (PST)
A few things to think about ...

General property maintenance, repair and replacement are legitimate costs of 
living anywhere.  You can rely on surprise emergency assessments if you prefer, 
but most condos and HOAs save in advance for the inevitable costs coming in 
five, ten or twenty years.

No matter how you collect the money, it is reasonable for each dwelling unit to 
pay a proportional share of the maintenance costs.  If you have below-market 
units, you may agree to work out a discount to help keep them affordable -- but 
they should probably pay something, if not a full fair share.

But ... what happens with households (below market, or not) who are having 
serious problems making ends meet, and real trouble keeping up with the costs 
of their housing?  Well, a community might conclude that said households have 
"over-bought" housing they can not really afford, and now must make a 
correction.  Or, a community might decide to re-allocate cost burdens (i.e., 
the assessments) to help protect specific households for a finite period of 
time, or indefinitely.
     Cornerstone Cohousing has done little or nothing in the latter mode; 
between-household cost transfers has not been made part of the community 
business.  However, at a number of points, specific individuals and households 
have acted unilaterally and privately to help support other coho residents 
experiencing financial shortfalls.

Optional capital improvements, like major renovations of an under-utilized 
space, are another matter.  At Cornerstone, we recently consensed a five-figure 
renovation and project fund for capital improvements.  The amount consensed was 
divided into a 25% mandatory assessment, and a 75% voluntary contribution.  We 
were gratified to discover that full participation in the voluntary 
contribution program was extremely high, almost 100%.  So our anxieties about 
our neighbors being broke or alienated were found to be misplaced.

Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Cohousing
Cambridge, MA

> On Dec 18, 2013, at 12:29 AM, Barbara Moulton <bcmhorse [at]> wrote:
> Hi, Cohousers,
> In my community we’re facing a substantial per unit assessment to cover major 
> repairs to our buildings.  We’re interested in setting up a “Helping Fund” 
> whereby those who are able to donate or lend could help those who would have 
> serious difficulty covering their assessment.  
> We would like to know if any of you have ever set up a “Helping Fund,”  what 
> were the mechanics of it, did it work out well?  Problems?  We’d like to 
> learn from your experience.
> Thanks,
> Barbara Moulton
> Santa Rosa CA 95405
> bcmhorse [at]
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