Re: Coin- or card- operated laundry machines
From: Susan Coberly (
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2018 13:57:00 -0800 (PST)
At first move-in in fall 2008, we had people's donated machines in the
laundry room. They began to break down and coho was paying for the repairs
to keep the donated machines going. In 2009-2010, I believe, we leased 2 HE
stackable sets.  Now we have 4 HE stackable sets. The lease cost includes
maintenance and repair. Around the time we began to lease machines, we
instituted a charge. I cannot remember whether it was at the same exact
time. To institute a charge required a consensus decision by the community.
As I recall there was at least one upset household since when forming and
building and adding new members we had thought the use would be "free".

I estimate that currently about 1/2 of the 28 household community uses the
machines regularly. Others use the machines sporadically, because home
machines break down; sometimes it rains and wet clothes cannot be hung out
if one does not have a dryer.  Additionally the machines are used for
Common House use, e.g., common meal linens, guest room linens (these uses
also accrue the same charge per wash and dry load, billed to the coho).

We charge 25 cents per wash load and the same per dry load. Currently that
includes HE detergent (non scented) and dryer sheets (ditto), as well as
water, electricity, gas. We request that 2, marked, sets of stacked units
be for people with pet allergies (dander and hair).  We have not raised the
rate although that could occur down the line.

We use an honor system.

I am currently the laundry tally person and it takes a little over hour per
month to make sure the record sheets are on the clipboard, retrieve the
full ones, and tally and email results to Residents list and the Treasurer
and Finance team. Laundry use costs are billed quarterly, as are common
meals. The Treasurer took pity on me about a year ago and created an excel
spreadsheet so I don't have to use a hand calculator and a Word document.

The honor system has its pitfalls - yes, sometimes people forget to "jot
down" their use; yes, sometimes people mark down the # of washes and forget
the # of drys.  When a wash but not dry (or vice versa) is recorded, I
email that resident to confirm their use.  We may lose a very small amount
of money by people not recording their use, but ...

Tokens or change would also have their pitfalls. someone would have to
empty and bank the coins, provide and empty tokens if used, the token/coin
slot could get jammed, etc. etc. And I am not sure whether it would or
could happen here, but someone in another city recently said the police
found numerous broken-open coin operated machines when investigating a
burglary ring - the miscreants had carted off whole machines in order later
to pry open the coin slots at their warehouse. This seems like an extremely
labor intensive way to get quarters, but most everywhere the charge is $2 a

Having this function in the common house is a great way to check in with a
neighbor or three while using the machines! It is one of many great ways to
make sure the most expensive piece of cohousing - the common house - is

Further, I agree with the folks who've written that this cohousing-borne
expense is no different, really, than commonly-operated bike storage,
children's play room, the common lawn, etc.... our needs and desires will
fluctuate over time in the community. We do have a small per load charge,
so the laundry use is not completely coho-subsidized.

Best, Susan Coberly (who does not have her own machines)

LaQuerencia aka Fresno Cohousing, Fresno California

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