Re: a slush fund for temporary financial relief
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Mon, 23 Oct 2017 07:38:05 -0700 (PDT)
This strikes me as an issue that needs some careful thinking …

One would like to picture cohousing as a voluntary assembly of households that 
have a realistic grip on their personal finances.  If households are moving in, 
and subsequently discovering that the real costs of homeownership, and 
sustaining the community, are beyond their means, then one possible contributor 
to this dilemma is that they were not given the correct financial information 
in the first place.  If for some reason the association’s annual dues are 
significantly variable — high one year, low for a couple, then high again … — 
this might be source of confusion for some, especially for new households just 
buying in.  Good financial planning, and unequivocal financial information, can 
help forestall some of this confusion.

Even so …

Individuals and households can and do fall on hard times:  People get divorced; 
people get sick; people lose their jobs, and so on.  And the household 
financial game plan can collapse.  It happens.  The question is, How does the 
community respond to this, if at all?  Does the community place a lien on the 
unit for unpaid dues (to be collected out of a future sale)?  Is there a 
commonly held fund available for income supplement; if so, where did this money 
come from, and who decides to release it?  Is there a formal process of income 
and asset, expense and liability verification?  Is the income supplement for a 
few months; several years; forever?  Is it a loan, or a grant-in-aid?

These are very hard questions.  At Cornerstone, we’ve occasionally conversed 
about such a systematic approach, but not set up anything in a formal way.  And 
we certainly do not have (and do not seek) institutional knowledge of personal 
/ household finances.  Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure, based on things I’ve 
heard, that some households did or do struggle with financial limitations, and 
other households have stepped in to help out, privately.  In other words, the 
support is managed off-books, as neighbor-to-neighbor, not as 
association-to-member.  And maybe this is one of the great but mostly invisible 
strengths of the cohousing lifeway.

Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Village Cohousing
Cambridge, MA

> On Oct 22, 2017, at 4:56 PM, Shawn Barber via Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at] 
>> wrote:
> We at Eno Commons just addressed this issue with our dues increase 
> discussion. Our current model follows that people facing financial issues 
> personally contact our treasurer and make arrangements on their own to deal 
> with unforeseen shortfalls. With no major issues resulting from this practice.
> After our recent reserve study, we found that our current saving amount does 
> not meet our expected reserve needs. Thus the request to raise dues to fix 
> the problem. Some in our community are on tight budgets, so the topic of a 
> relief fund came up. Our solution was to create a fund that those who can and 
> want to could pay into; knowing that it was going to help a struggling 
> neighbor and keep us meeting the reserve funding goal. The structure of the 
> plan was to continue with the current model of requesting aid from the 
> treasurer, but the fund would be in place so that the person would not be 
> expected to pay shortfalls back. Each quarter the treasurer would report our 
> status and whether the fund was meeting the needs or not. Then after nine 
> months (three reports) we could re-evaluate the plan.
> Our community went with an alternative plan that did not include the 
> implementation of a financial relief fund. But we have it in our parking lot, 
> for possible need in the future.
> I personally support the idea of those who can pay more than is asked are 
> allowed to balance out those who cannot, in order to keep the community 
> intact. Each community has to wrestle with values and issues, and determine 
> what works for the community.
> Shawn Svoboda-BarberEno CommonsDurham, NC
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