Re: Governance & Income Inequality [ was Common house design, rooms, and room sizes?
From: Elizabeth Magill (
Date: Tue, 10 Feb 2015 06:45:06 -0800 (PST)
We have both HOA dues and Cohousing dues. HOA dues are based on the share a 
household has of the community, and that is based on home price, and thus the 
HOA dues are less for the affordable homes.

Then the cohousing dues are sliding scale. We put into the cohousing all 
"optional" items, the washer dryer, the furniture in the common house, the 
hottub maintenance, ch cleaning, etc. We calculate the average each year and 
people pledge what they can pay... the minimum pledge is 5% of the average. If 
we come in short we either ask folk to increase their pledge or we cut 
something from the budget. So far so good, but we are new at this (going on six 
years I think.)

And then our meals program is pay for the meals you sign up for. That team is 
presently discussing creating a "good neighbor fund" for the occasional person 
who has accrued a balance and has reported they are unable to pay.

The state program we used is "moderate affordability" so those homes were 
priced for people who make 80% of the area median income. Many room for rent 
folk make less than that. 

Honestly we've agreed from the beginning that being financially diverse was one 
of our goals. Even people who can afford better things are always asking if we 
are keeping our expenses affordable for everyone in the group. We have issues 
as to whether we really have equal participation, but the line is not based on 

We worried about this issue before move-in but our experience has been that the 
financial differences between us are really not the fault lines.

(The Rev.) Elizabeth M. Magill

On Feb 10, 2015, at 8:50 AM, R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at]> wrote:

> First off, a couple of things I recommend (based not so much on cohousing 
> experience, but rather life experience):
> Don’t presume you know much about any household’s finances.  Some households 
> that complain consistently about expenses actually have more financial 
> flexibility than they let on.  While other households hanging on by their 
> fingernails suffer assessments in silence, trying to maintain their standing, 
> privacy and dignity.
> Don’t invent a system that requires you to obtain evidence about a 
> household’s financial standing (like, for instance, a review of tax returns). 
>  You absolutely do NOT want to go anywhere near making communal judgments 
> that Household X can, or can not, “afford” something.
> Having said all that …  At Cornerstone Cohousing, we believe (not know for 
> sure, but believe) that a few of our households are indeed operating within 
> very strict budgetary limits.  And these are not necessarily the ones in our 
> official, public-run “affordable” units.
> Even so, a couple of years ago we agreed on about $67K (appx $2,000 per unit) 
> of discretionary capital improvements, and funded them as follows:
> 25% of the cost was levied as a mandatory special assessment on each unit.  
> This was actually adopted by consensus.
> The remaining 75% was requested as a voluntary “fair share” payment.  
> Basically, we said, We’re all in this together, and we all should contribute 
> our fair share unless severe financial hardship results.  We left it to each 
> household to determine on its own what “severe” meant.
> Results?
> Most households just wrote out a check for 100%.  (This is why you should not 
> presume your neighbors are broke.)
> A few households set up a multi-year time payment plan for their 100%.  And,
> One household said, We really just can’t pay in full — and then wrote a check 
> for 50%.
> The projects are now mostly complete.  And a good time was had by all.
>> On Feb 9, 2015, at 9:24 PM, Sharon Villines <sharon [at]> 
>> wrote:
>> 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.
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