Governance & Income Inequality [ was Common house design, rooms, and room sizes?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sun, 8 Feb 2015 08:24:30 -0800 (PST)
On Feb 8, 2015, at 10:01 AM, Emilie Parker <emilie.v.parker [at]> 

> ​At Synergy Arts Cohousing in Louisville, Colorado need some advice for our
> group about income inequality.  IT's going to be part of our cohousing
> lives.  Our plan is to build 12 market price homes, 12 affordable homes,
> and 12 affordable rentals for cohousing.  I would value your thoughts about
> what we can do to make this work better in terms of setting up our
> governance?

I really happy to hear that you are planning rentals. We have had people move 
out because they couldn't afford to buy - the downpayment and bank requirements 
for income are just too high for many people to afford. They prefer to pay 
market rate rents.

"Affordable" is in the eyes of the beholder. So it's hard to know what this is 
exactly. In many places it uses the "average market price" in the area which in 
our neighborhood is now about $400,000. Still expensive. 

But in terms of governance, I think it doesn't make a difference. Equal 
participation is the primary goal. Everyone should have equal access to 
determining the conditions under which they live and work. Push comes to shove 
when people have different aims. That's why I think low income cohousing 
communities need to be low income cohousing communities and not a mix of low 
cost units, "affordable" units, and market rate+ units.

When one household values living at the same level as the straw building, no 
utilities village where they served in the Peace Corps and another is escaping 
that standard of living for a green middle class home, there is a conflict in 
aims that is likely to cause ongoing frustration for both. There is not likely 
be a win-win solution when common interest property requires each to live with 
and pay for the other's values. 

In terms of governance, the important first thing is to determine what the aims 
of group members are. Are you all going in the same direction? Are the 
differences in costs compatible? Making the aim tangible can be done by 
discussing examples and prices of fixtures and surface finishings. Examples of 
these are easy find with a group trip to Home Depot or looking at websites 

If you just ask "What do you value?" people can say the same words and mean 
entirely different things. "To live simply" for one means not living in a 
McMansion and for the other not living with more than 100 SF per person, even 
if they do accept some utilities as long as they exclude central heating and 
air conditioning.

Sharon Villines
Sociocracy: A Deeper Democracy

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