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Applying for membership

Joining Iowa City Cohousing is a multi-stage process designed to help prospective members get to know us and evaluate whether our Prairie Hill community will be a good fit for them. Living in cohousing is a new concept for many of us. It offers a social richness and quality of life that are hard to come by, but it also involves a commitment to participate in the work of the community. We want to make sure everyone has a chance to experience both aspects of cohousing life.

If you live out-of-state, we recognize that distance can pose a challenge. Please review the general process outlined below and then refer to the schedule proposed in Applying for membership from out-of-state.

Attend an information meeting

We invite you to explore cohousing with us by first attending an information meeting. You will meet community members and get a broad overview of the cohousing concept. We will also let you know where we are in the process of building our Prairie Hill neighborhood in Iowa City. Dates for these meetings are posted here. Childcare is available with advance notice.

Let us know that you’re interested

If you come away from the information meeting thinking cohousing might be for you, let us know that you’re interested, either by talking with someone at the meeting or by writing to us at iowacitycohousing@gmail.com. This will allow us to match you up with a current member to serve as your contact person. This person will answer your questions and guide you through the membership process if you decide to pursue things further.

Do some reading

Creating Cohousing: Building Sustainable Communities by architects Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett is highly recommended. This illustrated manual provides a great overview and includes extensive case studies of dozens of diverse communities in Europe and North America. McCamant and Durrett were the folks who brought cohousing to the U.S. from Denmark. The Iowa City Public Library has a copy of this book as well as several others on the subject. Copies are also available at Prairie Hill. See Additional resources.

Do a little soul searching

We've put together a list of questions for you to think about. See Is cohousing the right choice for you?

Try it out

We ask prospective members to try out community life by taking part in the activities listed below. This gives us all an opportunity to get to know each other better.

  • Come see our homes and land.  Come explore our beautiful 8 acres. Take in the vistas from the top of the hill. Half of our property is devoted to gardens, orchards, prairie and open space. Tour our common house and visit a variety of homes in duplexes and stacked flats to see which units appeal to you the most. Contact us to arrange a tour or attend one of our regular open houses. See event schedule.
  • Go on a field trip. Every month or so, we plan a field trip relevant to some aspect of cohousing life. We’ve traveled to other cohousing communities, toured small houses, visited alternative energy installations, and more. These trips are a great way to get to know the group better and to see green practices in action.
  • Join us for "Tasty Tuesday" or other social event. We gather each Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. for a community supper in the common house. Come join us. Some of us have known each other for years; others are new to the scene. These informal gatherings are always fun and give us all a chance to trade stories and make new connections. Your contact person will fill you in on upcoming events.
  • Attend a committee meeting.
    Our committees do the research and work necessary to develop and sustain the community. We ask prospective members to attend a meeting of least one of these groups in order to get some idea of how we function. A list of committees is available here. Let your contact person know which group you’d like to visit and he/she will connect you with the chair.
  • Talk to us via phone or Skype. Hopefully, you will be able to meet most of us in person. Check the list of members and see if there are people you've not met yet. In most cases, your contact person will be able to introduce you and/or arrange a time for you to chat either by phone or via Skype.

Formal application for membership

Once you’ve completed the steps above, we invite you to submit a formal application for membership. Please do the following:

  • Fill out the membership application form online. (This will come to us directly--no need to mail.)
  • Send us your authorization form for the credit and criminal background checks which are required of all members. A copy of the form is included in the information packet you received at the information meeting.
  • Include a check for your application fee of $100. A membership fee of $900* will be due once you've been accepted for membership. Both the application fee and the membership fee are non-refundable.

*Note: If you anticipate this fee will be barrier to your involvement, talk to one of the Board of Managers about possibilities. We have a limited amount of assistance that could be provided.

Please mail your check and authorization form to:

Iowa City Cohousing
c/o Barbara Bailey
140 Prairie Hill Lane
Iowa City, IA 52246

Financial obligations

  • As discussed above, members make a non-refundable payment of $1,000 when they join the community—a $100 application fee and a $900 membership fee. 
  • Upon joining the community, members are required to make a down payment of 20% of the purchase price of their home. These down payments enable us to meet the equity requirements set by our construction lender and pay for costs associated with the design and construction of our homes and community.

Members of the Finance and Legal Committee are available to answer any questions you may have about the process. Write to Barb Bailey at blbailey52@gmail.com.

Down payment assistance

Iowa City Cohousing has received grant money to provide a limited amount of down payment assistance for people who want to be a part of the cohousing community but need help in making a down payment on their home. The application for down payment assistance is a multi-step process. For more information, see these resources:

Final steps to membership

Once we receive your application for membership, your contact person will set up two meetings to complete the process:

  • Meeting with representative(s) from the Finance and Legal Committee to discuss membership options, level of risk, financial obligations, and any questions you may have.
  • Meeting of understanding. This last meeting brings the adult members of your household together with several members of the Prairie Hill community to discuss the outcome of your exploration of cohousing. This is a great time to talk about your excitement and hopes for the future. But it's also a completely appropriate time to bring up concerns, fears and uncertainties. Our intent is to have this final meeting be a safe place to explore your conclusions about Prairie Hill, and move forward to becoming a member if that feels right to you.

    If at the end of this meeting, you decide you want to move ahead with Prairie Hill membership, then this decision will be taken to the whole membership to approve at the next all-member meeting.

  • Meeting to sign purchase documents Lastly, you will meet again with the Finance and Legal Committee to complete the necessary paperwork for membership and the purchase of your home.