Re: Cohousing policies
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2018 19:56:20 -0700 (PDT)
On Mar 28, 2018, at 10:26 PM, Chris Terbrueggen <christopher402 [at]> 
> Greetings, I reviewed the list serve history  to see what has been discussed 
> about Cohousing policies . I noticed the focus on pets, smoking , guns, 
> participation and rental policies . I understand that it is very important to 
> have clear understandings on these issues before move in. However, I feel 
> that these policies alone do not lay the foundation for a strong Cohousing 
> operations . What specific policies does a urban cohousing community need 
> when starting a community of  45 households ? 

My personal advice is to not go crazy making policies before you move in. You 
need bylaws in order to legally establish the community. Those are standard 
topics that are available in any bylaws for a condominium. How do you make 
decisions? Who is eligible to vote/consent on issues? Quorum. Governance 

Otherwise, the most important issues are those that determine whether a 
household can make a commitment or not. 

Pets can be serious — people won’t come without their pets. Others are allergic 
or afraid. How do you resolve that? Which direction does the group want to go. 
Remember grandfathering in — initial outdoor cats may be accepted as they are, 
but no new outdoor cats. Check city regs. Don’t fence yourself in.

A lot of things just have to work themselves out. Things you think will be 
major won’t be (except for pets) and others will be (like pets). 

I think the most important concern when we moved in was that we didn’t know how 
to manage a $7.5 million multi-family housing development. 

We didn’t know what had to be inspected when or we would be shut down. How 
floors should be cleaned in a commercial situation. Who was responsible for 
checking the sump pumps? Who knows how to cancel an alarm that goes off 
accidentally? Who notifies the fire department? How and where do you post 
emergency messages — the CH is inaccessible because the security system has 
frozen. Expecting 18 inches of snow and the plowing company didn’t sign the 
contract and says they never heard of us. Who deals with that? 

What has to be done when someone hits a sprinkler head and floods their unit, 
or the kitchen? When the elevator gets stuck? Trash and recycling? How? Who? 
And how much? It’s a huge learning curve. 

Stuff like that can be overwhelming—and also great community builders. I often 
wish with our new residents we could go through something like that again. 

Even if you have a management company, they won’t be onsite. And like our first 
management company, they might be totally incompetent anyway. A company is only 
as good as the person they assign to you. One suggestion is to interview a 
local building manager—take them to lunch or invite them to a meeting. Start 
attending local meetings of the Community Associations Institute.

Not trying to scare you, just pointing you in another direction. We were quite 
fortunate to have members who stepped up and became experts on things when they 
went wrong. And resident electrical engineer and several DIY people.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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