All-Rental Community

David Oesper
 

I still have some hope of establishing something out there of a more permanent nature but like most of you cannot really afford two homes. I am not sure I have seen this mentioned in particular, but a possible source of an income stream to support your community would be hosting remote observatories for amateurs interested in Astrophotography, particularly given that there would be residents on campus to overlook operations.

Many communities have this bi-cultural focus, so to speak, and are successful to the extent that the residential, cohousing part does not depend on all residents working in the income producing portions. Organic garden sales, for example, is one operation that co exists with some communities. Cheese-making in a community in Vermont.

Sometimes the communities began as fully integrated, but over time—sometimes a very short time — found it was better to have two organizations, however overlapping, worked better than trying to manage one that had to be all things to all people. Particularly when a large portion of the residents are not interested in the income producing side and/or people work in the income producing side with no interest in living at work.

What triggered me to respond was the word “permanence” while I was working on a blog post for Sustainable Cohousing on self-governance and strong communities. I realized what had been bothering me about the all rentals model. It encourages impermanence. This happens in many ways. The basic one is that there is an owner who can veto decisions by the residents and residents come to expect the owner to solve all problems. It isn’t that everyone is equal because everyone is renting, but they are all equal except some — the owner(s). This is reasonable, too, because the owners are the ones taking the financial and legal risks. But it also leads to autocratic governance.

The problem of term limits is a good example. In organizations where the top leadership can serve for a limited period of time, say one to six years or even eight years, the staff becomes stronger than the leaders. By necessity the staff controls rather than those elected to represent the people or members or citizens.

A short term leader is dependent on staff. It takes years to learn a job and to build power in terms of influencing others and being respected. Having an independent and powerful leader is beneficial for organizations — as long as they remain representative. Expecting Nancy Pelosi to step down is lunacy at this point. She is an expert and has the respect of everyone she leads. Mitch McConnell, on the other hand, has developed leadership into a kleptocracy. He uses it for personal gain for himself and the people who keep him in power. He even buys off the people by a disproportionate size and number of grants for his state.

People want term-limits to get rid of the Mitch McConnells but fail to realize that that means no Nancy Pelosi’s or Ted Kennedys or whomever. It will lead to strong staff control and will be even more hidden than it is now. Short term leaders can’t afford to fire experienced staff—they know how to do the job. One of Obama’s advantages in the Senate was that he inherited a full, experienced staff from a previous Senator with whom he was a close colleague. In addition to being just plain smart, he had a huge running start.

So that is what has been bothering me about “all rentals”. It means the owner(s) never cede control—even when they think they do or can. The ideal is that everyone in the organization is equal in terms of respect and importance and has a defined responsibility over which they and their team mates are in control. The odds of an all rental community being the kind of community that is fully self-governing and co-responsible is not a possibility.

Sharon

Sharon Villines

http://sustainablecohousing.org

sustainablecohousing@groups.io

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