Steps to Forming a Cohousing Community

David Oesper

  1. Write a Vision Statement. Clearly outline what you want your community to achieve. Give a copy of this statement to every future member. [See for information about Mirador Astronomy Village, including the vision statement.]

  2. Develop a Decision-Making Process. Before you can start to build your community, you need to make some basic decisions about how to run it. Decide what the requirements are for new members, who gets to make decisions, how to run your meetings, how to resolve conflicts, and how to keep records. Set down all these decisions in a second basic document that you can present to new members when they join.

  3. Set Up Your Finances. Start making some some basic financial decisions, such as how to pay for your expenses, who should be in charge of financial records, and whether to charge a membership fee. Set up a limited liability company (LLC), a cross between a partnership agreement and a corporation, to keep the community’s assets separate from your own and add legitimacy in the eyes of banks and other financial institutions.

  4. Make Bylaws. You should now be ready to create formal bylaws for your new company. If your state requires it, file these bylaws when you set up your LLC. You will probably have to change these bylaws over time as your community evolves, but having them written out gives you a record you can refer to when you need to settle a dispute.

  5. Get a Bank Account. Once you form an LLC, you will be able to get a tax ID number for your cohousing community. Use this to set up a corporate bank account, and use it for all your community expenses. Be sure to put someone responsible in charge of tracking these expenses for tax purposes.

  6. Collect Fees. Charge all members a small sum to join your community, say, $100 to start with, and $20 a month after that. This will give you some starting cash for mailing, legal paperwork, advertising, and so on. It will also help you weed out people who aren’t really serious about joining.


The Senior Cohousing Handbook, Second Edition, by Charles Durrett (2009): Chapters 1 & 2, Appendix C

Communal Living & Cohousing – Types & Benefits of Intentional Communities by Amy Livingston

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