Re: Issues in Cohousing [was Play/toy weapons
From: Tiffany Lee Brown (
Date: Fri, 22 Jul 2016 10:58:58 -0700 (PDT)
This is an epic post! And I loved reading it. It's such a good point that 
sometimes a policy isn't needed: people need to feel heard more than they need 
laws, sometimes.

T in Oregon

Sent from the far shores of a distant land

> On Jul 21, 2016, at 10:41 AM, Sharon Villines <sharon [at] 
>> wrote:
>> On Jul 21, 2016, at 11:27 AM, David Heimann <heimann [at]> 
>> wrote:
>> P.S. -- During our development, someone referred to the four P's as 
>> potentially contentious issues: "Pistols", "Pets", "Progeny", and "Paying".  
>> Guns and swords are on that list!
> Another version of this is Parents, Pesticides, Pets.
> I thought the question earlier about what are the issues is an interesting 
> one. I’ll list the ones that have been issues here — some small, some big. 
> Some private and individual and some with everyone on one side or the other.
> Residential or commercial dishwasher in kitchen. 
> Payment of condo fees is not an issue but payment for other things has been. 
> Should people pay to use the clothes washer and dryer? Guest rooms? When 
> doors were painted people were charged individually because each of us has 
> one. But our condo fees are graduated so larger units actually pay less per 
> SF than small units. Should everything else be graduated too?
> Problems with children are generally considered to be parent problems and the 
> problem of the parents to correct. Parents sometimes ask for help — if you 
> see Jimmy in the TV room please ask him to leave. My children are vegan — 
> please don’t feed them meat. But a problem is parents allowing 5-6 year olds 
> outside with no supervision, arguing that if they lived in a single family 
> home, they would. But others argue that it isn’t a single family home and 
> there may be 8 children of all ages outside who don’t have their own yards to 
> play in. Doesn’t the 5 year old who likes to swing bats need parental 
> supervision? Unless it has been specifically arranged, should other parents 
> be expected to supervise that child? 
> Are parents responsible for cleaning up the kids room even if the parent 
> didn’t know their kids were there, the kids say they weren’t, and several 
> people say they were? Parents are generally expected to know where their 
> children are and what they are doing, particularly under 10-12. Knowing where 
> your children are is not “common sense” to some single fathers.
> Do children have a right to treat the dining room like a gymnasium with 
> yelling and loud toys even during meals? Should they be able to scream 
> outside at all hours of the day and late in the evening. Are children exempt 
> from teh noise policy because it is their nature to yell and scream and run 
> around as if the world is a soccer game? A soccer game with no rules.
> Discipline — can a member discipline a child of someone else. Tell them not 
> to jump on furniture? Or walk on window sills? (We have no policy on walking 
> on window sills.) Or put them in time out or send them home for attacking 
> other children. Or throwing balls where they can hit adults in the head who 
> are eating lunch in the piazza. Tell them they can’t leave the playroom until 
> they clean up.
> How much do teams have to inform the community about changes? Does the 
> facilities team have to inform others of what kind of HVAC system is being 
> installed or just get permission for an amount to pay for it? Deciding that 
> disposable paper products will no longer be stocked in the pantry and that 
> plastic plates (which still have to be washed) had been purchased instead.
> Do we need child safety locks on every drawer and cupboard in the CH or only 
> ones with knives, matches for birthday candles, and cleaning products (even 
> if they are all green and not dangerous). 
> Can the community decide to put a tree up in front of a member’s north 
> kitchen window, effectively blocking all light. Because we use consensus, no. 
> But some people were very upset because this tree somehow was needed to 
> balance the landscape design. Which takes precedence?
> Can we plant only native plants? Or what percentage of native and non-native? 
> What is “native”? If we don’t use Round-up, who weeds. What is a weed? Can a 
> resident plant “weed” in their own yards.
> Do we really need 6 inches of rubber mulch under a raised fort for older 
> children? I used to jump off roofs when I was 8 and climb 3 story high trees. 
> Why can’t ours?
> Does it really take a village to raise a child? Shouldn’t we have discussions 
> about manners and reasonable behavior in the common spaces? Can only parents 
> make rules about children’s “needs” and behaviors. Shouldn’t all members make 
> the decision that we need childcare during meetings? People without children 
> can’t tune them out as easily as parents. Should only parents decide if we 
> need to store carseats in the front hall? Even if there are 8? And strollers?
> Should dogs be allowed to run without leashes? Cats be outdoor cats? Only if 
> residents are allergic or to also protect guests and future residents? Or 
> because some members panic at the sight of a dog running loose?
> Where can dogs poop and pee? Who decides? The landscaping point person who 
> doesn’t want them to poop or pee anywhere? Who is responsible for cats using 
> the sand box or flower planters on balconies for kitty litter?
> Can people schedule private time to use the exercise room?
> Can people do exercise videos in the newly refurbished living room instead of 
> the exercise room? How does it affect the expensive new rug?
> Where can bicycles be parked? How many spaces per unit should be have? We now 
> have at least 61 bikes. Where can we put them. Doesn’t everyone deserve 
> equally nice storage — all indoor or all outdoor? All on the first floor or 
> all on the third floor?
> How long can a member remain on the members list after they move out? If they 
> have been a member for 18 years and want to stay on for a few months until 
> the get attached to their new community? If they are leaving after having 
> caused trouble? Does everything have to be standardized?
> Have a TV in the common house? Who pays for cable? In and unlocked room?
> When there is a central mail delivery room and anyone can sign for packages, 
> can each unit decide where they want their packages delivered and who can 
> sign for them? Who keeps track of individual preferences?
> Growing vegetables in the decorative gardens along the green? Should we 
> exhibit our values or have nice gardens? Vegetables tend to die before August 
> and are not removed or replanted. They don’t fit in with the design. Not 
> everyone wants to plant them so the design can’t be changed, or not to make 
> everyone happy.
> Can privately owned things be stored in common space that is unused otherwise 
> — put flat decks on it. Put storage boxes of tools in it. Leave strollers and 
> tricycles on them.
> Can we have a Christmas Tree? If so can we put angels or a creche on it? Can 
> a lighted Santa Claus figure be put up on the sign in front of the common 
> house? Can religious/cultural holiday of any member be celebrated in the 
> common house?
> Should the workshop be locked? Who can borrow tools and under what 
> circumstances? Are the paints and other supplies open source or reserved for 
> community use?
> What cleaning products can be used in the kitchen? Steel wool on pans or 
> bleach  on the dishcloths?
> Guns? Guns in common areas? Dangerous pets like pythons? Uncontrolled loud 
> speakers in the common house for parties?
> Is committee work like researching and righting policies workshare or only 
> physical maintenance tasks?
> Drying diapers on portable racks on the green? In a neighborhood where the 
> predominantly black neighbors consider hanging clothes outside to signal 
> ghetto or slums.
> ———————
> These may seem overwhelming or trivial but they all cause conflict. You can’t 
> address all of these before you move in or start membership meetings with a 
> list of these issues. Take them up as they come along. We didn’t deal with 
> any issues related to children until we had a bunch of them a few years in. 
> Pets may be important to discuss with prospective members because people may 
> not want to get rid of pets. (When we finally wrote a pets policy we also 
> grandfathered in existing outdoor cats, for example.)
> The worst kind of conflicts, in my opinion, are the small ones that people 
> grouse about are never resolved. They are often dismissed by others as 
> trivial. Feeling several of these can cause unhappiness that is hard to 
> resolve because because it comes from multiple places that have all been 
> trivialized. It begins to affect ones personality.
> Passing off things as personal issues to be resolved between neighbors is  
> usually a problem too. People are members of a community— not individual home 
> owners. They are accountable to the community and shared vaues and 
> expectations. Without community clarification of expectations, many members 
> think they don’t have a right to even raise an issue. They think they can’t 
> object because there is no policy prohibiting someone from storing a boat 
> beside someone else’s garden and blocking their sun. When neighbors disagree, 
> it is often because the community has not recognized or discussed the issue. 
> The same problem causes hard feelings over and over.
> When communities say this isn’t our problem, discuss it with so-and-so, they 
> are shooting themselves in the foot. If the person could have talked to the 
> other person, they would have. For whatever reason, they couldn’t and are 
> asking for help.
> A policy isn’t always necessary, just a discussion and a recorded sense of 
> the group in the minutes. People often change their behavior after a 
> discussion and no further action is necessary. Getting the right wording of a 
> policy can take years and thens seem like a bureaucratic non-necessity when 
> it finally gets written. We had a discussion on pets during which neighbors 
> expressed their objections to a neighbor’s outdoor cats even though they only 
> went on their common outside corridor. But they left hair everywhere on 
> tables, etc. She had no idea there was a problem and she had had the cats for 
> almost 10 years. After that she only took them out on a leash and took them 
> out on the green.
> So just talk about it first, as a community. A community is only as strong as 
> its fully committed members.
> Sharon
> ----
> Sharon Villines
> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
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