Re: divorce in cohousing
From: Doug Huston (
Date: Sat, 22 Feb 2014 09:05:35 -0800 (PST)
Hi Jenny,

Our problems did reveal the lack of clarity in policies and expectations that 
contributed to some of the conflict we experienced. Outside consultants we 
engaged helped highlight this for us, including pointing out policies that 
didn’t even exist. Previously, the community had some tensions with another 
offsite member before. This was also mostly due to expectations, rights and 
responsibilities not being explicit. That person bought an adjacent house 
before we were built, because she didn’t want to wait but still wanted to 
participate. So it was all just kinda abstract at that point. Much of this I’d 
chalk up to inevitable lessons/growing pains that are just part of the 
evolution of a community. We’re now seven years old. Although I think we 
anticipated many things well and crafted appropriate policies (in part because 
of the experiences of other communities - and thank yous to this list serve), 
we couldn’t and didn’t choose to anticipate all scenarios. 
I’ve framed some of this as a divorce situation for a rather narrow policy. 
Some members view it more like Sharon (posted on 2/10 - "I think it is too 
complicated to try to write a policy for any specific problem but easier to 
have a conflict resolution process that can be initiated by any member of the 
community for any reason.”) and see it as a conflict resolution problem. 
Others have also discussed addressing it sort of how you are - as an issue of 
clarity about offsite members. That discussion has included simply eliminating 
that kind of membership. 
And there are almost always some sentiments akin to "let’s not tell others what 
to do” or “don’t tell me what to do." I keep trying to remind myself to be 
unsurprised by this sentiment, but struggle with that. I didn’t think it would 
be so prevalent living in community. Silly me. 
Thanks for your thoughtful response.

On Feb 21, 2014, at 10:13 AM, Jenny Guy <jenstermeister [at]> wrote:

> Hi Doug, it sounds like you have a type of membership for people who don't
> live on-site and aren't owners, and a former resident/owner who is
> transitioning to living off-site and not being an owner. The questions in
> my mind are: what is the approval process for off-site members, and should
> the person moving out have to be approved? And the bigger picture for me
> is: is working things out with off-site members as crucial as working
> things out with the people who live there? If an off-site member is part of
> a conflict, do they have the same expectation of community support with
> conflict resolution as residents? Do renters? I guess there would be 4
> categories, resident owners, resident non-owners, non-resident owners and
> non-resident non-owners.
> I don't have an opinion on whether it should be equally important, and the
> strength of relationships with off-site community members probably varies a
> lot in different communities. I was just thinking that those are some
> things that might need clarifying in your situation: rights,
> responsibilities, expectations and status of different categories of
> membership.
> Jenny
> Kingfisher Cohousing on Brookdale, Oakland, CA
> On Thu, Feb 13, 2014 at 8:58 PM, Doug Huston <huston [at]> 
> wrote:
>> For me, the idea of this proposal originated when a community member moved
>> out during a trial separation. The person who moved offsite announced they
>> had every expectation that they would continue to be a fully participating
>> member.
>> Another event (about which I'm not being transparent out of respect to
>> others) brought up for our community a struggle about what are 'personal
>> issues' and what are 'community issues.' One of the members involved did
>> live 'offsite.'
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