Re: Two monthly fees: Homeowners (HOA) and CoHo Assn
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2015 12:12:26 -0800 (PST)
Regional variances in cost of living are readily findable on line, and could be 
factored into the community reports, if more precision is desired.
The real baseline accounting metrics, meaningful across all communities, are 
dollars per household (dwelling unit), and dollars per resident (including 
tenants and dependents).
One way to get assurance of comparability is to ask for data from the most 
recently completed fiscal year (calendar year 2014 for most, but perhaps not 
all, communities), such as:
annual operating assessment, broken into ..
employee(s), if any;
etc, etc …
reserve assessment for that year (if any), plus …
reserve balance at close of year;
special project (capital improvement) assessment, if any … and so on …
I could design, administer and analyze a survey like this as a pilot.
If it looks likes it’s working, the pilot could be embedded in a permanent 
self-reporting on line site.  BUT …
BUT:  I am just some guy, and would not wish to flail away at this as a 
self-appointed lone ranger.  I would need formal sponsorship of the CohoUS 
Board, and some collaborators from elsewhere in the extended community would 
certainly be a good idea.  If the Board is interested in this project, it could 
ask me/us for a written proposal, and then, if it still made sense, endorse the 
project and provide advocacy for our effort.  (Right now, I don’t see it as 
costing any money.)

> On Feb 16, 2015, at 8:01 AM, Alice Alexander <alicecohous [at]> 
> wrote:
> Many thanks to these good comments from folks. To Phil's suggestion:
> *I think CohoUS could do us a service by collecting and compiling real
> financial information from established communities*.
> That is a great idea, although complicated - $300 a month in a rural area
> does not equate to $300 in metro; not to mention how do we count apples to
> apples, given every community has unique inclusions, with some including
> reserve fund with monthly assessment for example, others not. Would a
> volunteer be willing to take this on, to collect this info? and how to
> create a baseline for comparison?
> Alice
> On Sun, Feb 15, 2015 at 9:42 AM, R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at]> 
> wrote:
>> First off:  What’s “high”?  What’s “low”?  This kind of qualitative debate
>> suffers enormously from lack of quantitative input.  Some at Cornerstone
>> think our annual assessments are “high” — but we have at least one member
>> who moved here after living in a variety of conventional condo situations,
>> and thinks our assessments are quite “low”.  For instance, we self-manage
>> and self-account, which saves us at least $12K a year, probably more.
>> But on average, cohousers should expect their common expenses to be
>> “high”.  This is why they moved to cohousing:  Not for the biggest, bestest
>> private units they could afford, but for a collaborative lifestyle
>> inclusive of certain kinds of sharing.  The spaces in common, the
>> activities in common, cost money to build and sustain — unlike, for
>> instance, you grandfather’s condo, which had little in common other than
>> the stairs.
>> Does this impede marketability and sales?  Absolutely, positively it
>> does.  Most Americans do not want any part of the intentional community
>> lifestyle.  So right off the bat, any coho, by aim and choice, has directed
>> its real estate asset to a narrow market segment.  If many buyers walk away
>> from a coho purchase, it’s not because the HOA assessments are “too high”,
>> but rather because these assessments pay for a product that is not wanted.
>> Except by a minority of buyers.
>> I think CohoUS could do us a service by collecting and compiling real
>> financial information from established communities.
>> RPD
>>> On Feb 15, 2015, at 9:14 AM, Elizabeth Magill <pastorlizm [at]>
>> wrote:
>>> To be clear almost no cohousing community has two separate fees like
>> ours. We were mandated by the state (or town? details aren't my strength)
>> to make it so the affordable buyers didn't have to "join" anything if they
>> didn't want to.
>>> AND we are two coho's on the same land, each with different solutions to
>> that requirement.
>>> Camelot Cohousing rolled everything into HOA dues and said, there, there
>> is no reason to "join" anything.
>>> Mosaic made two separate fees, with the smaller coho amount on a sliding
>> scale, in an effort to have a sliding scale component to our fees. (We had
>> planned to have our HOA dues sliding scale, before we understood that that
>> was legally impossible or impractical or both.)
>>> On the "truly voluntary" yes, you can really choose not to pay them. We
>> were required to make it so they can use the Common house (they own part of
>> it, of course). But the reality of our situation is we are not near public
>> transportation, by the time we were selling our "affordable homes" cost the
>> same as a depressed market city townhome, and we are far from
>> the only people who wanted affordable homes here were people who were
>> looking for cohousing. So its really voluntary in that people choose where
>> they are on the sliding scale, but no one chooses not to join. (Actually so
>> far I believe the only people who didn't join were market rate buyers who
>> never moved in.)
>>> I think the valuable question is "what did urban locations who have low
>> HOA fees do to make them low"? Because our high HOA fees certainly hurt our
>> sales. (We have the highest fees around and there were several non-buyers
>> who mentioned the HOA cost as prohibitive.)
>>> -Liz
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> -- 
> Alice Alexander
> Executive Director
> <>
> [image: The Cohousing Association]
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