Re: While we're on the subject of accounting . . .
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Mon, 7 Aug 2017 06:08:51 -0700 (PDT)
Wow.  You’ve just animated one of the most critical of issues, not just for 
cohousing, but for social and political life in general:  What’s a fair 
distribution of common costs and benefits?

At this point, many kinds of replies are possible, but I’m going to gallop past 
a lot of the detail, and try getting to the bottom lines.  I will make some 
assertions ...
      (1) Property operations and maintenance will use up most of your communal 
resources.  Levels of quality are always debatable, but in general, everyone is 
in favor of keeping the heat on and the water out.  Operations and maintenance 
should become routine, and require little year-to-year psychic energy.  Payment 
for O&M will be made according to the formulas in your documents.
      But and however …
      (2) Operations and maintenance of community life, character, spirit and 
values is separate from property upkeep.  It requires both time and money 
investments on a regular basis.  Sometimes dividing up the costs and benefits 
seems arguable.  I suggest several principles:
      (3) Keep in mind that, as a community, you are convened for purpose of 
helping each other get what s//he wants.  Nobody gets everything, but everybody 
gets something, at least sometimes.  That’s the whole point.
      (4) No accounting system (and no human community) will ever perfectly 
balance time and money in, benefits out.  Don’t try for an exact, quantified 
      (5) Shun, as much as possible, privatized buying clubs with 
sub-memberships of participants.  If you’re going for communal Internet, it 
should benefit everyone, and everyone should pay — otherwise, it’s not communal.
      (6) Shun, as much as possible, pay-per-use for members.  Pay-per-meal is 
probably inevitable, but pay-per-use does not necessarily apply to the common 
laundry machines.  Watch out that you don’t end up with paid access to the 
exercise room, or pay toilets.
      (7) Some members may seem very resistant to “optional” common expense, 
and seem resentful of the contributions of time and money required to sustain 
the community.  They may argue they don’t use, need or want many or most of the 
putative benefits.  Well, OK, but that might leave me wondering if these people 
are really good candidates for cohousing …

Let’s see where this thread goes next.

Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Village Cohousing
Cambridge, MA

> On Aug 7, 2017, at 8:18 AM, Dick Margulis <dick [at]> wrote:
> [prompted by Michael Rulison's question but better kept to a separate thread]
> As construction approaches (two more bureaucrats to get past before that 
> happens) and we look toward eventually moving in to Rocky Corner (first 
> cohousing in Connecticut), questions arise about how different categories of 
> things will eventually be paid for. Here are the assumptions I've made, but 
> I'd like some feedback on whether I'm headed in the right direction or there 
> might be something simpler.
> 1. The condominium association is required by law to do certain things (snow 
> removal, landscape maintenance, septic and stormwater management maintenance, 
> building maintenance, capital fund for major repairs, corporate accounting 
> and legal expenses, etc.). That is all paid for by the monthly condo fees, 
> which are decided at an annual meeting of all owners. To the extent owners 
> agree to take on tasks (in the spirit of cohousing communities being managed 
> and maintained by members), the budget doesn't have to cover paid outside 
> services. If no one is willing to get up at five in the morning to plow snow, 
> then the monthly fees will be higher.
> 2. The condominium association can, as part of the budget process, decide to 
> fund the construction of accessory buildings and other improvements, as time 
> goes on. For example, initial construction does not include carports, but we 
> have sufficient skills within the community to design them, get them 
> permitted, and construct them, with the only outlay being for materials and 
> permits. Everybody gets a carport space, eventually, even if we don't get 
> them all built at once, so this cost can be shared equally.
> 3. Groups of individuals can organize informally to propose improvements that 
> they will fund themselves and have exclusive use of (a storage shed shared by 
> a few neighbors, for example), and the community can agree to that proposal. 
> This might extend to facilities a small group of people want badly enough to 
> pay for but that others might make use of later, for a fee paid to the group 
> that funded it in the first place.
> 4. The cohousing community (essentially a social club, unincorporated) can 
> organize community events of various sorts. These activities could be funded 
> a couple of different ways: Some might involve a price per ticket (community 
> meals, concerts, dances); others might be funded out of an annual activity 
> fee, separate from the condo fees, that would be collected per person rather 
> than per home, and that would be voluntary (hey, if you don't want to take 
> part, no one is going to force you).
> 5. Everyone has the right to full access of the common facilities (by law), 
> but activity fees can be collected for making use of common facilities. 
> Examples: an hourly fee for using the workshop; a fee for hosting a private 
> party; an hourly fee for using the kitchen for canning or other production 
> (i.e., not for a community meal); a fee for the use of your allotment in the 
> community garden (there's space for everyone to have an allotment, but only 
> the people making use of it would share in the costs associated with 
> maintaining it). These would seem to be something the condominium association 
> could collect and account for, but maybe that would have tax consequences and 
> they would be better collected by the unincorporated club instead.
> Thanks for any insights.
> Dick Margulis
> Rocky Corner
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