Policy Example: Compensation for use of Common Space

Compensation for Use of Common Space
Mission Statement
Being a member of cohousing means accepting a smaller footprint on the earth for our homes, and in exchange having an extension of our living space in the form of common areas that we can also call our home. Arbco understands that each member of our community will use our common holdings to varying degrees and in unique ways. Living in community means sharing the commons freely, carefully, respectfully and inclusively. When a member is enriched by its use, we are all enriched.
From time to time a member may ask for a portion of the commons to be used in a manner that principally benefits one or a few individuals, impacts the commons in more than an incidental fashion, or removes property from common use. The decision by Arbco to approve such an activity should be based on the costs and benefits to the values and resources of the community. If an activity is approved, then Arbco may consider the need for compensation for any impact this use might have.
Most common space activities will not warrant group approval. Many activities that warrant approval will not warrant compensation. All common space activities, however, warrant thoughtfulness and respect for the people and property that constitute Arbco.
Any activity that takes place outside of our private spaces, or utilizes our common resources, is a use of the common space. The use can be large or small, permanent or ephemeral. Below are some considerations that should be taken into account when determining if compensation is needed, what form it should take, and how great it should be.
Examples of common space activities:
  • Using community rooms or outdoor areas (kitchen, guest rooms, laundry, gardens)
  • Enclosing community space (fencing, additions)
  • Changing the landscape or design features (wall painting, creating a path, tree trimming)
  • Placing items in common spaces (artwork, furniture, sand box, plants, storage)
  • Using community resources (utilities, dry goods, piano, computer, tools)
Reasons to support use of the commons without compensation:
  • Like any home, cohousing is a blend of work, living and social spaces.
  • As a cohousing group we wish to support community ahead of individualism and privatization.
  • Incursions into common areas are a natural and expected activity of families and communities.
  • Use of the commons will naturally be highly variable and diverse.
  • Using the commons is efficient.
  • Everyone has a natural, undefined allotment of common space use.
  • The commons may be underutilized if individual use is discouraged.
  • The cost to community of suspicion, greed, or envy among members is worse than the occasional overuse of common holdings by individual members.
  • Generosity, reciprocity, supportiveness and acceptance are community values we wish to encourage.
  • We do not want to over-manage or micro-manage our activities.
  • Compensation can exclude members without discretionary time or money from using the commons.
Reasons to support use of the commons with compensation:
  • The impact on the community may be too great to absorb.
  • The benefits may go exclusively to a small part of the community.
  • Compensation may prevent over-use of the commons.
  • Members may be reluctant to ask to use the commons if they cannot compensate the community for it.
  • Fairness and equity may best be preserved by compensation.
Compensation will take into account these considerations:
  • Does proposal add or take away from community?
  • Is it permanent or temporary?
  • Does the activity create wear and tear? Are extra costs incurred by the community?
  • Is it a one time, occasional, periodic, or ongoing event?
  • Is it exclusive or can the community participate?
  • Does the activity take place adjacent to a member's private property?
  • Will the activity be considered a taking by law? Does a space transfer into private hands?
  • Is it a for-profit activity? Is it a charitable activity?
  • Does the community strongly support the activity?
  • Is there an in-kind trade?
  • Does the request come from someone outside the community?
  • Does the assignment of compensation set a precedent that will logically be applied to others?
  • Can the activity be allowed up to a certain point without compensation?
Levels of compensation:
  • None (The activity is considered to be within the general use of all member activities, there is no cost to the community, or the cost is equal to the benefit)
  • In-kind compensation
  • One time, per use, or occasional fee
  • Ongoing fee
  • Increase in condo fee
  • Lease, rental or long term use agreement
  • Easement
Some examples of common space use:
Playing the music room piano
Having a son's wedding in the common room
Setting a painting easel by a window
Fencing a yard
Having a garden plot
Placing a shepherd's hook near a patio
Building an addition
Storing a boat
Creating a croquet court
Using the laundry rooms, work room, exercise room, sewing room or guest rooms
Using the community kitchen to make jam
Placing a bench under a tree
Erecting a swing set, bat house, bee hive, tree house, fire ring or hot tub
Leaving toys, skis, rakes, bicycles, grills, signs or laundry within common view or spaces
Teaching a class
Planting flowers
Making an igloo
Rehearsing a vocal group
Showing a movie
Building a rock wall
Running plant lights using community electricity
Placing a work of art in a hallway or along a path
July 2007