Re: How Cohousing communities decide on new members
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Thu, 15 Apr 2021 13:40:24 -0700 (PDT)
> On Apr 15, 2021, at 2:55 PM, Bob Leigh <bobleigh [at]> wrote:
> You mentioned that your group is "confident about our construction loan".
> It sounds as if, right now, you are _not_ selling housing but the
> opportunity to join a membership group which is acting as a real estate
> developer of sorts.

In addition to the fair housing laws, ask the lawyer how you present what you 
are selling or guaranteeing. In some states, like NYState, there are strict 
rules about offering property that is not built. Many real estate projects have 
failed and people did not understand that they were “investing” not buying. No 

The advisability of forming a legally defined group with a specific purpose 
might help here — less misunderstanding. Don’t call yourself homeowners when 
there is no home.

I’m not a lawyer (by any means) but I’ve heard a lot of stories about 
misunderstandings around the process of “joining” by putting down a sizable 
fee. People might think it is a contractual agreement. The other area of 
misunderstanding is that when you talk about a dark room in the CH, or bicycle 
parking, or a dedicated yoga room — whatever — the people who really want those 
things will hear it as a promise. In other words, you say you are putting a 
darkroom in the CH and the person hands you a $500 check, they are joining in 
the context of a darkroom in the CH. To you it is only a possibility and a 
desire that others share. More people will be joining and some will drop out, 
and the winds will shift toward a larger kitchen or an exercise room. The 
darkroom guy feels tricked.

It’s really hard to be in a fluid group planning something that is even more 
fluid. Not only more fluid but less negotiable. In the end, what gets built, 
gets built, no matter what someone “promised” 2 years ago.

Sharon Villines
affordablecohousing [at]

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