Re: hoa dues based on per capita basis? square footage?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Tue, 24 Oct 2017 16:33:17 -0700 (PDT)
In conventional condominiums the percentage interest governs both fees and 
votes. So the higher the percentage interest, the larger your vote. That 
softens the blow of higher fees. Paying more gives you more power.

The monthly fees, however, are collected to pay one’s proportional share of the 
cost of the community. That is determined by the size of the property more than 
anything else. The size of the CH and the units if the community maintains the 
exterior of the buildings. The various administrative fees are part of this — 
licenses, certificates, annual inspections, etc. The elevator. The exterior 
lighting. That is the bulk of the budget. 

Using SF of units is a way of approximating the cost of maintaining the 
exterior. Our larger 4 BR units also have a porch, a tiny yard, a deck, a 
balcony, and a full basement. Compared to a 620 SF one bedroom and den with no 
balcony or deck or basement, that is a big difference. The cost of maintaining 
the exterior includes all those LCEs plus the roof, the siding, the 
waterproofing, etc.. There is even more pest control required by a larger 
footprint. More basements to spring a leak or need a new sump pump.

We have a $110,000 project going to repair and replace the unfinished wood on 
all those decks, balconies, and handrails. And at least 6 units have no 
unfinished wood amenities. They are paying part of that cost. An average of 
$2,558 per unit. (Not a one time special assessment—we have reserves to cover 
it. But each of those six units has been contributing that much to cover these 

So the SF can indicate a big difference in costs. This is one thing to think 
about when you design units. Are the differences in the maintenance of the 
units easily distinguished. We have so many unit sizes and feature variations 
it is very hard.

Per capita means very little. Our large units still cost the community just as 
much to maintain as if they have 1 or 5 people. We have found that there is 
almost no correlation between unit size and number of people living in them. Or 
the amount of use they make of the CH or the guestrooms. 

We have one person in a 4BR with a full basement. 1in a 3 bedroom with a 
basement. And had 3 in each of two 1 BR units. One household who uses the 
guestrooms and the CH for their guests 40 nights a year. Others don’t use 
either except to attend community events.

We do 50% equal and 50% variable. The variable portion is badly calculated but 
at it’s core is SF. It was done initially to lower the fees for large units. 
But what that does is have small units subsidizing the large units. Many now 
don’t think this is fair. My guess is that the income levels of most of the 
people in small units is far lower than the incomes of most those in the large 

The one person in a small unit who is on fixed income that almost disappeared 
during the Recession, doesn’t have the money to support a family with 3 
children in a 4 BR. They have already supported their own children growing up. 
And there is no reason to believe that 3 children with two professional parents 
with high salaries are under any economic stress at all. Even billionaires 
complain about taxes.

The altruism related to fees isn’t always based on reality. I wouldn’t know how 
to measure the benefit of 55 acres of land because it doesn’t cost much to 
maintain. Taxes? I just don’t know.

The issue for me is sharing of costs equitably. If community members want to 
support each other in other ways it would be better directed at those who are 
truly in crisis, not on the size of their unit. It brings up all the problems 
of a “slush fund.” 

It’s very hard to change the basis for the condo fee once you move in. Not only 
because state law may not allow it or not allow it for 20-50 years, but also it 
is hard to convince people to voluntarily pay more, or why they should.

Trying to resolve this issue has taught me why condominiums are built cookie 
cutter. Less conflict. 

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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