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Community participation

Participation is at the heart of cohousing. Members agree to take part in the planning, maintenance, and daily operations of the community. It's the way we get things done, and it's the catalyst that brings us together as a group.

Current expectations

Members of Iowa City Cohousing agree to work on at least one committee as well as attend monthly general membership meetings. Here’s an overview of our current committees.

Common House Committee

The Common House Committee sorts out the many decisions that need to be made concerning the physical aspects of the common house. The group works in conjunction with the Board of Managers and other committees.

Facilitation Committee

In an organization where cooperation is key and decisions are made with the whole community in mind, meetings are a frequent necessity. Well-facilitated meetings can make the difference between a happy membership and a frustrated one. The facilitation committee explores strategies and structures to help make our meetings positive and productive, with each person an important part of the whole. As we move toward sociocracy as a governing structure for Prairie Hill, good facilitation will be increasingly important.

Finance and Legal Committee

This committee manages much of the day-to-day work of the project. Here are just a few of its tasks:

  • Oversees and safeguards Iowa City Cohousing’s financial assets
  • Represents legal interests of ICCH with other entities
  • Clarifies legal documents and language to members
  • Reviews all major contracts to identify potential legal problems
  • Maintains files of legal documents required for HOA compliance 
  • Oversees payments of expenses and receipt of revenue
  • Guides Board of Managers in developing a budget and cash flow projections
  • Tracks member equity 
  • Figures reserve fees and HOA fees 
  • Assists in assessing financial risks
  • Researches and contracts insurance coverage for HOA 
  • Files all federal, state and local tax returns 
  • Researches, writes, and manages grants
  • Keeps group in compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements 

Note: The meetings of this committee are closed due to the confidential nature of their responsibilities.

Garage Committee

This group is soliciting input from members on the design, function, timing, cost, and construction of garages, car ports, storage sheds, and electric car charging stations. Tasks include:

  • Drawing up preliminary designs of the structures
  • Securing cost estimates
  • Coordinating construction, perhaps including some member sweat equity in framing, siding, drywall and painting
  • Drafting policy regarding the payment schedule for garages, utilities, etc.

Land Committee

The Land Committee studies issues regarding land use and make recommendations for how our land will be used. Here is a partial list of their responsibilities:

  • Create and maintain shared green spaces and landscape infrastructure
  • Plan community vegetable garden
  • Oversee community composting program
  • Plan and organize work days
  • If desired, help members design plantings for the personal green space around each home

Membership and Marketing Committee

Here are some of the bases this group covers:

  • Drafts membership policies
  • Coordinates the membership process for new people interested in joining the group
  • Develops marketing materials
  • Coordinates advertising and outreach opportunities
  • Manages the website
  • Corresponds with people interested in the project
  • Plans field trips to visit planned communities, green buildings, small homes, and other destinations of interest to the group

Unit Optimization Committee

When new homes are built there are lots of decisions to be made. The Unit Optimization Committee helps new members select the finishes they want for their new home. They also guide members interested in making modifications to their units. 

Future expectations

Once our community is built, we will transition to some other form of organization—most likely a homeowners association—where we envision sharing responsibilities for landscaping, community meal planning, kitchen upkeep, supply purchasing and so on. So, the committees will morph, but the idea of community involvement will remain the same. Community participation helps keep costs down, but more importantly, it creates many opportunities for us to get to know each other better.

How much time is involved? 

No doubt it will vary from month to month depending on what's happening. Many cohousing communities estimate that members spend around 15-20 hours per month working on community projects. This includes committee work, work days, and general membership meetings. But, members are quick to point out that their community obligations often take less time than they regularly spent on home maintenance projects before they moved into cohousing. Plus, it's just a lot more fun working together!

We recognize that participation requirements will need to be somewhat flexible—each member's participation will reflect his/her unique talents and abilities. Our goal is to get the work done and make sure everyone feels a connection with the community.