Re: Governance & Income Inequality [ was Common house design, rooms, and room sizes?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Mon, 9 Feb 2015 18:24:36 -0800 (PST)
> On Feb 9, 2015, at 6:57 PM, Emilie Parker <emilie.v.parker [at]> 
> wrote:
> It scares me that we are going against your recommendation with this.  How
> do you think we can overcome the income inequality issue?

I don't want to pretend to be an expert on income inequality in residential 
groups. Other communities have followed various budgeting strategies to set up 
voluntarily graduated condo fees. Perhaps they will speak up.

In the end it depends on your residents and how they feel about it--both the 
high and the low income earners. In the beginning some of our members had not 
wanted to allow anyone to donate money because the donors would then feel some 
kind of ownership or entitlement over the things they donated funds to buy. 
This has not happened at all. It has allowed them to have things in the 
community that they wanted and that everyone has freely benefited from -- like 
a universal gym, a nice fence around a yard that is now a play yard, etc.

You might look at research on income inequality in common interest groups, ones 
that own property together. Many condos and coops have income screening so no 
one moves in who is going to have problems down the line. The problem is 
finding a study on a population similar to cohousing. And the question is how 
big can the spread be before you have a problem. As with all things, if you 
like the person it doesn't matter. But when things turn sour, or the money 
requirements begin making you uncomfortable, then what?

I was once a part of a group that started a parent cooperative school. The 
philosophy was that all parents should pay but only pay what they could afford 
to pay. Never again. People have incredibly different ideas of what they can 
afford to pay. I would only do such a thing with objective standards against 
which everyone was measured. No standards can ever be perfect but they more 
equitable when it comes to money than self-determined standards.

Eris has done a nice small book on talking about money. I recommend it and her.

Money is a central issue in cohousing because it has to be coped with one way 
or the other. Someone has to do the building for owners or for renters. Someone 
has to pay the bills. How people feel about it varies widely. You need to know 
how your groups feels and what their expectations are. 

Sharon Villines, Washington DC
"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have 
any." Alice Walker

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