Re: our own insurance
From: Craig Ragland (
Date: Wed, 8 Jul 2009 09:02:38 -0700 (PDT)
I find this an interesting idea. Back in 2007, before I began this position
as Exec Dir, I did a lot of research and brainstorming about what Coho/US
might do that would matter to existing communities.

Having done the rather painful research and work to find decent insurance
for Songaia, I suspected that many other existing communities might also
highly value some Coho/US support, if Coho/US could help one way or another.

I put Improving Cohousing insurance options on my list of possible projects
- perhaps finding ways to offer discounts on higher quality insurance tuned
to Cohousing needs, e.g., high value common spaces, self-management, etc.

Unfortunately, this was another good idea that I naively looked to our user
base to support through the (now defunct) Members Area.

We launched the Members Area at the 2008 National Cohousing Conference. The
vision was that many vital topics could be addressed by those with passion.
We seeded it by identifying and engaging some committed Cohousers to help
lead some intial topic areas (Marketing, Research, and Technology). The
intention was to complement the many fleeting threads on Coho-L, creating
lasting dialog and developing resources. Many signed up and visited it, but
almost nobody participated in the forums, made comments on the blogs, or
suggestions for the resource centers. I still love the concept, but it was
too expensive to support more staff time for a poorly used resource. We were
unable to inspire the volunteer energy to make the continuing investment

I did not, however, give up on the idea of dealing with insurance in one way
or another. The amount of money involved collectively is staggering and it
would seem that group buying power could be valuable. This was one of many
topics I addressed with the most passionate who met with me on a West Coast
Cohousing tour, where I visited 10 communities in 3 weeks in early Fall-08.
These conversations confirmed the interest in almost every established
community. People thought we could both lower our prices and increase the
quality of insurance by making some type of group purchases.

My next step was speaking with an insurance company who's business model is
offering specialized insurance (including HOA packages) through different
non-profit associations. I took basic information about it to the board and
we talked about possibilities. There was some board interest, but the
fiduciary concerns, resource limitations, and questions of priority pushed
the concept to the back burner. This meeting was also when 2009 Conference
work was kicking into high gear... something that I'm still dealing with, as
the work doesn't end when the conference does.

At this point, the board is working on a survey to better understand the
needs of existing communities. If insurance support is of adequate interest,
we'll look at it more closely. For us to succeed, we do need to match
community needs with Coho/US competencies. At this time, we have no staff
member with HOA insurance-related expertise. My work researching and
purchasing Songaia's helped me understand that I don't want to develop the
particular knowledge required myself. I'm open to managing somebody else who
would manage such a program, but right now, I'm the only full-time staff
person and need work lifted from my shoulders, rather than wanting more.

For real action on this front, I suggest that the next step is for somebody
external to Coho/US with some individual passion make the required
investment to work the problem independently. If they would like to explore
a relationship with Coho/US as part of the solution, I'm happy to talk - but
not until they have done some substantive work developing the concept. I
talk with many passionate individuals with ideas of what the association
could do, but most require investment by Coho/US - something we're not in a
position to do.

All this being said, the level of financial support Coho/US received in our
annual Fundraising Banquet was unprecedented. It may be that more of you are
reconizing the value of our work and how its been growing over the last few

I do look forward to a day when Coho/US can help people with almost any
great Cohousing idea or issue connect to the right resource, whether its
external to Coho/US, a Coho/US volunteer, or staff person.

Now its time for me to call Neil Planchon for our weekly meeting on
Cohousing Tours.

Craig Ragland
Executive Director
Cohousing Association of the United States (Coho/US)
craig [at]

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On Wed, Jul 8, 2009 at 7:33 AM, John Faust <wjfaust [at]> wrote:

> Elph,
> I do endorse this approach. One of the investments of such an insurance
> pool
> could be the development of cohousing through construction loans to
> qualifying construction-ready groups with a qualifying plan of development.
> This might allow more freedom in how such a group legally organizes.
> Who would invest? Existing cohousing associations looking for a responsible
> and reliable place for their reserve funds, cohousing residents tired of
> the
> "high-flying" financial sector circus and others with confidence in the
> concept.
> Who would manage the fund? Professionals hired by Coho US. Who better
> understands or has confidence in cohousing? Who is a better judge of a
> sound
> cohousing plan worth investing in?
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