Re: seeking input on membership structure
From: Becky Weaver (
Date: Thu, 26 Oct 2006 11:10:15 -0700 (PDT)
Hi Jonnie,
Kaleidoscope Village's developer has control of our land. Architectural plans 
are in progress. Our group has been in existence since January 2000, and we 
expect to move in starting in late 2007/early 2008. 
  You can review our membership policies on our wiki starting at Scroll down to the "Member 
Application and Agreements" section for our equity member & associate member 
  I highly recommend at least a two-tiered membership structure, requiring 
people to pay serious money (more than a few hundred bucks) to become an equity 
member. Practically speaking, you can't measure someone's commitment to the 
group any other way. Even though money is certainly not a perfect measure, it's 
much more real than a verbal commitment, and easier to quantify than a time 
  Requiring a financial commitment also helps couples decide how serious *both* 
of them are about the community. It is not uncommon for only one person in a 
couple to be very interested in cohousing. The other person may not mind 
donating their partner's time, but might say a loud & clear "no" when it comes 
time to put down the cash and sign on the dotted line. If the inactive partner 
says yes, they're on-board to at least some extent.  
  Also, if most of your units are going to be sold to buyers (instead of rented 
to renters), requiring an equity down-payment helps focus people on whether 
they are, or will be, genuinely able to buy a home. People can get so enamored 
with the idea of cohousing that they can be in denial about their finances. If 
a person finds they need to rent instead of buy, better for everybody to plan 
for that. 
  I tried to say what I'm about to say before, in relation to dues/equity 
structure and family structure, but I got feedback from my community members 
that what I said was not what I meant. :-) What I'm about to say *only* applies 
to a pre-move-in community, where financial matters cannot be tied to physical 
buildings and other costs. 
  OK; if you try to tie your financial requirements to family structures 
(singles/couples/families) you are making assumptions about what those family 
structures mean regarding personal finances and community contribution. And, in 
fact, family structure is *totally unrelated* to either ability to pay, or 
commitment to the project, or non-financial resources given to the community 
(volunteer work, knowledge, wisdom). 
  This being the case, you *cannot* be fair no matter how hard you try. If your 
fees are low enough, that may not matter and you can probably get away with 
  If non-equity fees are a continual source of tension, maybe they're just too 
high. Make sure the vast majority of fees/investments ultimately get returned 
to the household in the form of a down payment credit or some other return with 
  Secondly; if you try to make policy around income/assets (sliding scale), you 
could be setting youself up for some extremely unconstructive discussions. 
Unless there are well-known, well-developed models already functioning in your 
larger community that you can adapt to your own purposes, I caution you against 
this approach. 
  By opening the question of what's fair to charge each other, you are creating 
an environment where your life situation affects me financially, and my life 
situation affects you financially. People tend to respect each other's life 
decisions, until the day they're asked to subsidize them. Then suddenly, we can 
react very emotionally to another person's personal choices. 
  Now, I'm not against emotion, but in this situation I don't see that the 
community gains anything by going there. It can do messy things to otherwise 
good relationships, and there are alternatives. 
  So what are the alternatives? You can charge different fees based on expected 
home cost; let households choose which size home they're probably going to 
want, and pay a certain percentage accordingly. This gives individuals control 
over the financial decisions affecting them. You don't have to have exact home 
prices to do this; ballpark it & call it good enough. 
  Another method is to set a minimum fee and ask for voluntary donations or 
investments over the minimum to meet goals. In this way, households also 
personally decide how much they can afford. Extra financial contributions are 
*appreciated,* not just expected from certain members. 
  This prevents higher-income members from feeling like the community ATM, and 
allows lower-income members to control their financial obligations. 
  Do not, do not, decide what other people "can afford" for them. In some 
affordable-housing situations that has to happen; in that case, let a 
bureaucracy do it for you. 
  Hope this helps,
  Becky Weaver
  Kaleidoscope Village
  Austin, TX

Jonnie Pekelny <jonniep [at]> wrote:
    ...At the same time we are trying to establish the membership structure and 
I would very much like to hear feedback from communities in stages BEFORE 
move-in (and the formation of the HOA) about your membership structure. ...

A man becomes his attentions. His observations and curiosity, they make and 
remake him.
--William Least Heat Moon

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