Re: How Cohousing communities decide on new members seniors and requirements
From: Liz Ryan Cole (
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2021 18:21:21 -0700 (PDT)
Phillip raises many good questions.

I have a question and an explanation for why it is possible to “discriminate” 
in favor of older persons

My question is - Are there any groups that have membership requirement similar 
to a a coop work requirement?  Would share your experience?  Some of us having 
lived in group houses in the past, our membership agreement requires all 
members who plan to live here (Pinnacle in Lyme, NH) to commit to 2 hours of 
work per week -  Mostly that will be in cooking and clearning up from group 
meals (which we will offer every day). Some of it might be in "work days”.  And 
some might be in daring socks when we are too infirm to stack wood (assuming of 
course people still have socks that can be darned). :)

We have found the work requirement provides a natural screening.  Some people 
say great idea, tell us more about your community, and some say, no thanks, not 
interested.  Of course enforcement is an issue, but that’s for another 
discussion.  Anyone else have examples of this type of “screening”? 

and my explanation about senior housing… this from the HUD page: This is the 
“pass” Phil refers to.
Housing for Older Persons exemptions apply to the following housing:

Provided under any state or federal program that the Secretary of HUD has 
determined to be specifically designed and operated to assist elderly persons 
(as defined in the state or federal program);
Intended for, and solely occupied by persons 62 years of age or older; or
Intended and operated for occupancy by persons 55 years of age or older.
The 55 or older exemption is the most common of the three.

for whether this over 55 housing without being designed to meet the needs of 
seniors is good idea (full disclosure, I don’t) see

liz (Ryan Cole)
lizryancole [at]

Pinnacle Cohousing and Loch Lyme Lodge and Cabins
Lyme, NH

802.274.1511 Mobile
802.785.4124  Home 
802.831.1240 Work (Vermont Law School)

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire 
to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
― E.B. White

> On Apr 14, 2021, at 3:12 PM, R Philip Dowds via Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at] 
>> wrote:
> A few comments, some of which may earn me no friends …
> Fair housing law, without question, applies to the sellers and their agents.  
> In the formational stage, this is almost always the community.  But once the 
> unit is sold to a household … who’s the next seller for the resale?  What 
> rights and powers does the community retain to interact in the resale process?
> Moreover, “fair housing” is a proxy description for “anti-discrimination”.  
> Anti-discrimination law defines personal or demographic attributes that 
> cannot be weighed as part of the decision to sell, or not sell, a housing 
> unit.  But it’s not clear that these attributes are even the most important 
> ones for community identity, solidarity, and diversity.  A few examples might 
> include …
>  •  Income?  Do you worry that households stretched very thin, in their home 
> purchase, may be unwilling to consent to anything other than a minimalist 
> annual budget?  Should you set a minimum household income for buy-in?  Or, 
> forget it, and hope for the best?
>  •  Shared interests?  What if your aspirations include affinity group 
> compatilities, like, people who want to play music together?  Can you reject 
> a household that fails its audition, in favor of a household full of pianists 
> and percussionists?  Remember, musical ability is not an attribute protected 
> by “fair housing” law.  If you go for the musical household, are you more 
> interested in compatibility and uniformity than in diversity?  Is this bad?
>  •  Enthusiasm?  What if you have a purchaser candidate household that 
> clearly “gets it”, and wants to be an active contributing member of 
> intentional community?  And another candidate ready to pay more, but clueless 
> about, and possibly hostile to, the cohousing lifeway?  Should you 
> discriminate in favor of apparent enthusiasm?  (Not protected by law …)
> None of which addresses one of our biggest conundrums:  Senior cohousing.  
> Which “discriminates” against “young” people, and families with young kids. 
> Familial status is verboten as an attribute of discrimination … but senior 
> housing, and senior cohousing, gets a pass.  Should it?  If it does, then 
> what about cohousing only for people of Central American heritage?  What’s 
> wrong with that?
> Nor the affordability challenge.  If you want to build affordably, make the 
> units as standardized as you possibly can:  Like, just three sizes, with 
> identical layouts for each unit of the same size.  But if you want diversity, 
> make all the units distinctly different:  Different sizes; different layouts; 
> some with stairs, some not, some studios, some 4-bedrooms; etc etc.  But a 
> construction plan made entirely of unique conditions definitely increases 
> construction costs.  What’s most important?
> I do not pretend to have any slam-dunk answers for these questions.  But I 
> think the questions of intentional community can get really hard.  Unless 
> we’re ready to understand that the entire process of developing and managing 
> intentional community is one of carefully calibrated compromise among 
> legitimate competing values.  Fealty to “diversity" does not, on its own, 
> solve the problem.
> Thanks,
> Philip Dowds
> Cornerstone Village Cohousing
> Cambridge, MA 02140
> mobile: 617.460.4549
> email:   rphilipdowds [at]
>> On Apr 14, 2021, at 1:45 PM, Elizabeth Magill <pastorlizm [at]> 
>> wrote:
>> You are selling housing.
>> The Fair Housing Act prohibits this discrimination because of race,
>> color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and
>> disability. Your state or town may have added other categories to
>> this.
>> This applies to who you sell to, and also to how you advertise.
>> You can invite your friends and family who meet your criteria for
>> diversity to join with you, and be part of organizations where you
>> meet people who are diverse, and invite them to join your community.
>> You can build in an area where diverse people want to live, and
>> provide resources that diverse people want near their homes.
>> But you can't decide who can buy based on race, color, national
>> origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.
>> Liz
>> On Wed, Apr 14, 2021 at 12:24 PM Jim Bronson
>> <jimbronsonashland [at]> wrote:
>>> River Song Cohousing Community in Eugene, Or is passing the 3/4 point in
>>> membership prior to locking in our construction loan (ground blessing
>>> scheduled for May 9th).  At this point we have attracted a nice group of
>>> explorers and are confident about our construction loan.  Looking forward
>>> we would like to see more diversity in our community rather than choosing
>>> members on a first come first serve basis.  We are contemplating possible
>>> ways to modify our system so we are selecting from a pool of candidates. It
>>> would help us to hear from cohousing communities about any application and
>>> interview or other processes you have used to enhance diversity.  Thanks
>>> for this helpful listserv.
>>> Jim Bronson
>>> Design Team for River Song Cohousing
>>> _________________________________________________________________
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>> -- 
>> -Liz
>> (The Rev. Dr.) Elizabeth Mae Magill
>> Pastor, Ashburnham Community Church
>> Minister to the Affiliates, Ecclesia Ministries
>> 508-450-0431
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