Re: Resale Policy
From: Howard Landman (
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 09:44:04 -0700 (MST)
> Here at Cambridge Cohousing we are trying to develop a workable resale
> policy.  One goal would be to help us  maintain whatever economic and family
> type diversity we have managed to achieve.  We would like to know the resale
> policies of other cohousing groups.

I don't believe it is legal for a cohousing group to *have* a resale
policy, if such a policy is meant to impose restrictions on who may or
may not buy.  RRC is structured as a condominium with HOA.  Each owner
owns their unit "from the walls in" and has the legal right to sell
it to anyone whom they choose.  The HOA and the other members have no
legal right whatsoever to interfere in this process, and could probably
be sued if they tried to.  Further, such a policy might violate federal
anti-discrimination laws.

That being said, it's certainly a good idea to have some way to "orient"
prospective new members, so they know what they're getting into.
It's also fine to do things like maintain a waiting list of people who
want to join if/when a unit becomes available.

There is a fine line between welcoming diversity and insisting upon it.
Insisting that every microcommunity must be diverse is, in fact, saying
that there is only one right way to compose a community and that any
non-diverse community is a bad idea.  Thus, for example, any concentration
of one ethnic or racial type would have to be viewed as bad.  Yet this
limits diversity in the larger world!  There would be no Chinatowns,
no Armenian neighborhood (with store signs in Armenian!) in Burbank CA,
no Italian or Polish or Vietnamese or Hispanic or Hmong neighborhoods
anywhere.  That's not my idea of diversity.

It's also been my experience that the phrase "economic diversity" almost
always is one-sided and means "let's get more poor people in here".
I have never, EVER, heard anyone who claims to be in favor of "economic
diversity" complain about a lack of wealthy people in their community,
or propose doing anything to make their development more attractive to
wealthy people, or expend effort trying to lure more wealthy people into
joining.  Thus it seems to me that most talk of "economic diversity" is
really just a euphemism for a kind of reverse classism, where it is seen
as more noble to be poor.  This also shows up as a frequent confusion of
"cohousing" with "affordable housing for the poor".

But, if that's what you really want, it's quite easy to achieve.
Just build some really small, really cheap units.  No one with any
money will want them, with the possible exception of e.g. an elderly
single person who likes living simply, so you're guaranteed to get
mostly poorer people in such units.  They can also serve as ROOMS
(the numbers are the pattern numbers from A Pattern Language).  So,
there are multiple reasons to want some very small and cheap units.
Yet most communities, even ones that say they want economic diversity,
don't have any.  RRC is a perfect example of this.

Another way to get a similar result is to have larger units structured
in such a way that a portion of them can be treated as a smaller,
separate unit.  This allows the effective size of a unit to grow or
shrink as family size changes, without forcing the occupants to move.
And it satisfies all the patterns mentioned above.  In effect, if you
build in the notion of possible "renters", then you solve most of these
other issues at the same time.  (See the ROOMS TO RENT pattern for a
deeper discussion of this.)

Be aware that zoning laws in many localities will make it difficult to do
some of the above.  For example, here in Fort Collins, there is a legal
issue about having any kind of cooking appliance in the rental area -
that makes it a separate unit.  So you might have to do some wrestling
with the city, or the banks (who don't like to loan money on things
they don't understand well).  However it is possible to prevail with
some persistence.

        Howard A. Landman
        River Rock Commons
        Fort Collins, CO
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