Sharon Villines's blog

Consensus Doesn't Mean Unanimous

Q: How many communities out there have switched from a unanimous decision-making process to one where there is a real desire for every voice to be heard but if a community becomes stuck and a unanimous decision cannot be reached another method is employed.


Workshare, Play or Pay, Getting the Work Done

From the first thought of really living in cohousing, an essential requirement is being able to depend on each other to share the work. It's a collaborative effort and requires all hands on deck. If you don't know how to do something, learn. Even if your group is can afford to hire a development company, there are still many things that no one can do for you. Decision-making is one of the hardest because there are so many of them to be made. The "co-"in cohousing is "collaboration."

Equipment Care and Storage

Communities designing their common houses often ask about what they will need. What do people really use? What kind of storage is needed and what will go in it? Is an office necessary and for what? They don’t know about storage for 8 snow shovels or 6 different kinds of brooms and mops.

Insist on Plain English Documents

Several years ago there was a post on Cohousing-L related to the community's legal documents that were written in "legalese." I had recently researched Plain English for Lawyers for a neighbor. She was a single parent trying to set up legal guardianship and financial oversight for her daughter in the event of her death or disability. She had asked me to read the document her lawyer prepared to see if there was anything she or her lawyer had missed.

The document was totally incomprehensible.

Best Marketing: Blogging

When I saw a blog on a cohousing website, I realized that we have missed the boat on using blogs to market cohousing. By reading the informal accounts of personal and community events, I felt this was a community I could walk into and be perfectly happy. The posts were about things like canning tomatoes, their Royal Bocce Ball tournament, and fears about getting to know people.

That is what people who are considering cohousing want to know. Who are these people and what do they do? Is this a therapy group or what?

When to Use Consent and Consensus Decision-Making

In sociocracy, consent and consensus decision-making are only used for policy decisions. Policy decisions are those that govern actions and allocation of resources (budget, people, etc.). But this leaves questions for many people about when to use consent and consensus decision-making. It helps to look at policy decisions v, operations decisions.

What Causes Conflict in Cohousing?

I thought a question on the cohousing email list what causes conflict in cohousing was an interesting one. There was an element of surprise in the question. Do you allow conflict? Sometimes we paint ourselves to potential new members as rainbows and candy.

The usual suspects that cause conflict are "parents, pets, and pesticides". Or children's behavior, outdoor pets, and cleaning or killing chemicals used in the garden or the common house.

What does "open" mean?

When lying awake last night reflecting on various decisions made in cohousing and in my neighborhood community, I explored some questions about what is open and transparent in a world where everyone belongs to several organizations and tries to involve and represent a larger community.

What is required to truly inform and solicit information about the needs, desires, or preferences of “the community.” How does a group know when it is being inclusive and transparent? And accountable?


Organizing Low-Income Cohousing

What are some ways to encourage people to create low-income cohousing?,


1. Define "low income."

“Affordable” is not a euphemism for “low income.” Affordable is usually defined as 80% of the average cost of a similar housing unit in the area. That could be in the millions and still be called "affordable.”

HUD’s definitions for Low and Very Low Income are on this page:


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