Re: Renters Policies
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Thu, 15 Oct 2020 03:05:31 -0700 (PDT)
[C-L] Friends —

The 2020 census may give us better info, but speaking roughly, in the US, about 
65% of dwelling units are owner-occupied, and 35% are occupied by renters.  In 
Cambridge, MA, the ratio flips:  About 65% of our units are occupied by 
tenants, and about 35%, by resident owners.

At Cornerstone in Cambridge, nearly all of our units are owner-occupied, nearly 
all of the time.  Some resident owners may occasionally choose to have a 
housemate (or housemates).  Occasionally, the owners are absentee, and we do 
have tenants — either a few unrelated individuals, or a family.

But our underlying philosophy seems to be that owner occupancy is preferred.  
The theory held by some may be that resident owners will be more “stable”, less 
likely to turn over, and generally more engaged with communal life.  Tenants, 
on the other hand, may not fit in, may shun participation, and might be 
disruptive in some way.  Back when we first moved in (2001), we adopted a 
policy for screening and approving tenants.  Overall, this policy has been 
ignored, and our few tenants mostly come and go without any systematic 
community evaluation.

Cambridge is a generally successful city and a desirable location — despite, or 
probably even with the help of, its large tenant population.  By law and by 
custom, tenants are full participants in local civic life, and play important 
roles in municipal voting, planning, management and decision-making.  
Cornerstone isn’t fully on board with this view; there are recurring debates 
about whether tenants can or should participate in the “important” decisions of 
plenary, like setting the annual budget and monthly fees.  These debates, of 
course, subside when our actual tenant occupancy is small or null.

Speaking personally (not for the community), my own opinion is that our tenant 
citizens should have the same rights and responsibilities as our owner 
citizens.  Over the 13 years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen quite a few tenants 
constructively and enjoyably engaged in our community life — and also, a 
minority of resident owners who decline to play ball.  Personally, I am 
uncomfortable with the idea that tenants are second-class citizens.

I am sending our official (but not well-followed) tenancy policy directly to 
susanfries213.  Anyone else who wants to see it, let me know.

Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Village Cohousing
Cambridge, MA

mobile: 617.460.4549
email:   rphilipdowds [at]

> On Oct 14, 2020, at 10:12 PM, Ann Lehman <ann [at]> 
> wrote:
> On Wed, Oct 14, 2020 at 9:03 AM <susanfries613 [at]> wrote:
> An Ad Hoc team of us is working on the rights and responsibilities of
> various categories of people who live here – guests, owners, tenants.
> Specifically, we would like to see the Renters Policies of other groups,
> understanding how to integrate renters into the social and work fabric of
> the community.
> Please response to susanfries613 [at]
> Thanks,
> Susan
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