Frequently Asked Questions
|How does cohousing differ from co-ops, communes, etc?||The big differences are in privacy and financial autonomy. Cohousing consists of individual private units arranged so that:
|How does cohousing differ from ordinary condominium developments?||The differences are in design, self-governance, and shared resources. Cohousing units are designed collaboratively by the residents in conjunction with design professionals. Communities decide on their own form of self-governance and make their own rules; they are not under the authority of any outside developer or property owner. Owners of cohousing units share ownership of facilities such as the common house and the grounds.|
|Is this development environmentally responsible?||We are highly environmentally conscious. We have bio-swales to retain rain water on the property, shared recycling and composting, reflective roofing, ceiling fans, double-glazed windows, solar panels on the roof for water heating, passive solar design, separate temperature control devices for zones within our homes and the common house, chargers for electric vehicles, bicycle storage facilities, organic garden, composting, etc. Our location —within walking distance of the downtown area, shopping, and public transportation— makes it easier to walk and bike.|
|What does an MVCCmember household own?||Each of the households owns their own condominium. Each also has a partial interest in the common house, the land, and the other shared amenities.|
|Is each unit
a complete residence?
|Every unit is a complete living space, with a full kitchen, two or more bedrooms, two or more baths, and hookups for one’s own washer and dryer.|
|What about laundry facilities?||Members can do laundry in their individual homes, using their own washer/dryer, or may use the shared washer and dryer in the common house. Every unit has hookups for a washer and dryer, but this equipment is optional. Some individuals use this shared equipment for all of their laundry, while others elect to use them occasionally, for large loads, or never. There is also an outdoor clothes line near the laundry.|
|What provision is there
for people with physical limitations?
|We have used “universal design” throughout the common areas and the individual units. This includes lever openers for doors; wheel chair-accessible doorways, bathrooms, and kitchens; Braille on signs and elevator buttons; elevator access to the garage, all three living levels, and all floors of the common house; and other accommodations for people with physical limitations. The wiring for hearing loops has been installed in the main dining room and the media room in the common house. When activated (we haven’t needed them yet) they may help those who have suitably-equipped hearing aids to hear more clearly.|
|How does the community govern itself?||The community is governed by its homeowners association (HOA), which has the registered name Calderon Homeowners Association. All MVCC’s members belong to the association, and are automatically members of its Board of Directors. The homeowners association adopts legal CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions); makes rules for the day-to-day functioning of the community, primarily by consensus; decides upon and assesses HOA dues; and is the forum for dealing with any conflicts, opportunities, or other developments in the wider Mountain View community.
MVCC is organized into a number of teams. The teams are empowered to carry out various aspects of the governance process. Teams include:
|Does the community
decisions by consensus?
|Like many other cohousing communities, MVCC makes its business decisions by consensus. A proposal is adopted only when all members either actively support it, or at least agree to “stand aside”— that is, to accept it even if it is not what they would have preferred. When a member voices objection to a proposal, the group seeks to understand and consider the basis for objection. Althought this style of governance occasionally requires lengthy discussion, we think it’s essential because it assures that —when a decision is reached— it has the understanding and support of the entire community.|
would I have
as a homeowner?
|Every household is a member of the Homeowners Association and, as such, participates in the governance of the community. Each household has a financial responsibility for their portion of utility, maintenance and other expenses (e.g., insurance, utilities for the common house and other shared areas) and for contributing to a reserve fund. In addition, other responsibilities, such as chores or maintenance activities, are reviewed and determined by the group as a whole and/or by our teams (see above, “how does the community govern itself?”). Communal social and recreational activities are also planned by our teams.|
|How much are the condominium fees?||Condominium fees are in the range $630 to $725 per month; that’s somewhat higher than those of other condominium associations, but more is provided. Fees cover insurance on the common areas and structures; decoration, furnishing, repairs and maintenance of common facilities; landscaping; all common-facility utilities; gas for heating and cooking; and water (see utilities below). Fully a third of the fees are reserves for predictable major expenses for the community as a whole, such as an eventual new roof.|
|Are utilities included
in the condominium fees?
|Utilities covered in the condominium fee include water, gas, heating, hot water, sewer, and trash and recycling pickup. However, each home pays the providers directly for their electricity, telephone, and such other communication utilities (e.g., TV, internet) that they select.|
|How much do utilities cost?||Experience in other cohousing facilities over several decades has shown that the cost of utilities is typically lower in cohousing than in other types of developments. That’s partly because of our extra insulation, and in part because of the behavior patterns of typical cohousing inhabitants. Most of our hot water and some of our heating is provided by solar thermal equipment on the roof. We intend eventually to have photovoltaic panels as well.|
do members have?
|Residents are responsible for furnishing, decorating, and maintaining their own homes. They arrange and pay for any customization of their homes, such as painting or minor interior structural modifications (per the CC&R’s, structural modifications require the approval of the Architectural Review Committee). Residents also purchase their own homeowner’s insurance, in a policy that dovetails with the building & grounds insurance purchased by the HOA as a whole.|
Residents are responsible for furnishing, decorating, and maintaining their own private units. They are responsible for arranging and paying for any customization of their units, such as painting or minor interior structural modifications. They have their own homeowner’s insurance, if they choose to do so.
|Do homeowners sometimes rent out their condominiums when not in residence?||MVCC does do not yet have formal rules regarding renting. Typically, condominium developments seek to maintain the home-ownership model by restricting the number or percentage of units that can be rented. We expect a similar limit to be defined as we work through this issue.|
|What happens to a unit
if the owner decides
|Each home is private property that can be sold on the open market. Before purchasing a unit, prospective buyers should meet members of the community, attend a common meal and a business meeting if possible, read material about cohousing in general and MVCC specifically, and agree to abide by the HOA rules and processes. There is considerable demand for cohousing and the supply is limited. Therefore, it’s generally easy to sell units to people who are eager to live in cohousing and may even be willing to pay a premium to do so.|
|How do prices
of MVCC’s units
compare to those
of other options?
|This is the first condominium-style cohousing development in the Mountain View area; there are no others that are exactly comparable. Other condominium developments of this size do not have a large common house and common land, nor the mutually supportive environment of cohousing. The size of MVCC units is larger than those found in most other cohousing developments in other parts of the country. The approximate price per square foot is similar to or less than that of other recently built condominium complexes in the area.|
|Where can I park
|Parking for residents is entirely underground, with approximately two spaces per household. There is an elevator from the garage to each floor of the main building, with level access to each floor of the smaller building.|
|Is extra storage
|The condominiums are unusually large for cohousing units, with plenty of closet space. In addition, there is private storage space in the underground garage and bike storage on the grounds. There’s also visually-accessible, but locked, storage space for items that households may want to share with each other, such as coolers, tents, camping gear, and recreational equipment. Because we have extensive shared facilities and equipment, such as tools, a home theater, and exercise equipment, the individual households have less need to store duplicate items —after all, how many band saws or elliptical trainers can 19 neighbors need?|
|Do members eat meals together?
Does everyone participate
in meal preparation?
As in all cohousing communities, community meals are central to MVCC so we have a shared agreement that we will all participate both as a diner and on meal teams. MVCC currently has two common meals each week as well as a TGIF event each Friday. Monday dinners are usually meat-oriented while Thursday dinners are vegetarian or fish (some who may not be able to eat a specific meal may choose to bring their own food and join in the fun). We have already had experience accommodating to the various dietary needs of individuals who are gluten intolerant, lactose intolerant, and/or do not eat certain foods for religious reasons. We make sure that there are options for them. |
Attendance is optional at any meal. Roughly once a month each member participates on a meal team, be it as lead cook, prep cook, or set-up/clean-up. We also have the occasional small group potluck held at members’ homes.
The meals program is not covered by H.O.A. fees. Households are billed quarterly based on their attendance, and they are reimbursed for purchases at the same time.
|Are pets allowed?||Pet cats or dogs are allowed. A household may have no more than three pets, of which no more than two may be dogs. Pet owners are expected to control their pets so as not to annoy, frighten, or pose a danger to others in the community. Dogs must be restrained at all times when in any of the common areas, inside or out. Pets are not permitted in the main part of the common house. Residents of a first floor unit have their own outside yard area, suitable for dogs.|
|Is smoking permitted?||No. Smoking is prohibited everywhere in the property, including all public and private areas, indoors and out.|
|Is the environment suitable
for people with allergies
or chemical sensitivities?
|We minimize the use of building materials that release allergens. We don’t allow animals (including dogs or cats) inside any of the public areas. Nor does the landscaping include plants that are recognized as common allergens. However, MVCC cannot be responsible for ensuring that any individual be protected from all substances to which they conceivably might have an adverse reaction.|
|If I get sick,
will I have to leave?
|Neighbors in this cohousing community may give more assistance to each other than those in typical single family, condominium or apartment settings. This mutual assistance as we age may enable us to stay living in our own units for a longer time than would otherwise be the case. But MVCC is not set up to serve as a long-term care facility. If at some point a person finds they require ongoing assistance with the tasks of daily living (such as dressing, bathing, cooking, feeding), they are expected to make their own provisions for this assistance. Since all units have two or more bedrooms and baths, it might be possible to have a live-in household helper or caregiver. If at some point several members require a caregiver on an ongoing basis, part of the farmhouse is designed to be converted to a small caregiver suite.|
|What’s the difference
and a retirement community?
|MVCC has no age restrictions. That’s unlike retirement communities, where typically there are age limits. Although some of the current MVCC members are retired, others are working full time and don’t intend to retire in the foreseeable future. Living in cohousing is quite unlike moving into a hotel with concierge services and meals provided; MVCC members live in their own condominium-style houses. MVCC members are independent and self-governing; they expect to stay actively involved and contribute to creating a life of their own choosing. By contrast, the residents of a retirement community are in a setting designed by others for their care and comfort, within the bounds of rules and routines created by others.|
|Is this a religious
or spiritual community?
|No. We are a group of independent-minded people who happen to want to live near other compatible people. Membership is not restricted to those of any particular faith, spirituality, or philosophical persuasion. We enjoy enthusiastic, respectful exchange of ideas.|
|Who are the
“Friends of MVCC”?
|People who are not actually members of Mountain View Cohousing but would like to keep in touch or hear about the community’s activities are known informally as Friends of MVCC. They receive the community’s occasional newsletters by e-mail, are invited to join in some of its events, and received notification of possible vacancies as they may arise.|
|Why have people
chosen to live in this
|When asked why they have chosen to live in the Mountain View Cohousing Community, probably the most important reason people cite is their desire to live in a stable, community-type setting of friendly, like-minded people who value neighborliness and care about each other. Other reasons expressed by the current members include: “I love Mountain View, and want to stay here” … “What a bunch of interesting people — we have great conversations” … “This feels like family —a good family— already. When any of us have had problems, others are interested and want to help” … “We have fun together” … “I was tired of maintaining a single-family house and that darned yard — I’d rather share the responsibility with others” … “I’m learning from the others and getting interested in things I had never considered doing before, like a book club” … “Sometimes I just want someone to hang out with, like do crafts or watch a movie with” … “When something needs doing that’s too much for me to handle myself, there’s someone else to give a hand.”|