Hibiscus Commons: A Project of BACLT

Frequently Asked Questions

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Social and Membership

In traditional senior housing, residents are renters and typically have to give up control over their housing decisions, making them passive consumers rather than allowing them an active role in their housing. While each Hibiscus Commons resident will have their own apartment, the residents will live cooperatively and will control all policies and decisions, such as what staff will be hired (if any), when and how much to raise the monthly assessments, what color to paint the buildings, and what to plant in the yard. When there is a vacancy, the residents will also have control over the selection of new residents, to ensure that additions are compatible with the Hibiscus Commons community. This will empower our residents to stay in control of their lives and build community together - counteracting isolation, boredom and the loss of meaningful roles that so often accompany the aging process.

Democratic control of the cooperative will be protected through cooperative bylaws and oversight by the Bay Area Community Land Trust. A Board elected from among the cooperative members will have the direct responsibility for overseeing management of the co-op and implementation of the bylaws and occupancy agreement.

Cooperatives and cohousing are not mutually exclusive. With a co-op, members own the property cooperatively, there is one mortgage on the entire property. Co-housing is a lifestyle describing how you live in the housing. Most cohousing communities are structured as condominiums where residents own their units individually. Hibiscus Commons will be a cooperatively owned elder housing project with some elements of cohousing such as shared meals and a community garden. The specific cohousing elements to be incorporated will be determined by the availability of space on the property we eventually purchase and by the members who will reside at the property.

By joining Hibiscus Commons during the planning stages, you will create a support community for aging. You will also help invent and create a new model of senior housing. While none of the members involved in the planning process are guaranteed a unit in the first property, your involvement in the process will certainly position you with a much higher likelihood of being chosen for a unit.

To join Hibiscus Commons during this pre-purchase period, you complete the membership application . When openings become available, we will conduct interviews and let you know if you have been accepted. Once accepted, you become an aspiring member for the first six months and you must:

  • attend an orientation meeting facilitated by a full member
  • agree in writing to our statement of purpose and group process
  • make a financial commitment to pay dues and to contribute towards our pre-purchase expenses such as legal fees and web hosting fees

Dues for aspiring members are $5 per month. Dues increase to $10 per month when you become a full mem-ber, though additional contributions from full members may be required for major expenses that are agreed to by the membership. Aspiring members can discuss agenda items at all meetings. However, final decisions are determined by full members. To become a full member, you must participate in 80% of business meetings during your first six months. We will attempt to provide remote access via telephone or video conferencing for aspiring and full members who cannot attend a meeting in person. At the end of the six-month period, full members will take a poll regarding your acceptance as a full member. This poll will be taken at a meeting where you are not present, and you will become a full member if the membership reaches consensus on your acceptance.

One resident member from each household unit must be 55 or older. We welcome both female and male members as well as single people and couples and will follow fair housing guidelines in selecting members.

Hibiscus Commons will incorporate co-housing activities such as some shared meals and community gardening, and may also hold social events. The specific activities will be decided upon by the residents of the community, and it will be up to you whether to participate or not. In other words, how much you socialize will be pretty much up to you.


Organization and Finances

We have been consulting with the Bay Area Community Land Trust since our inception. We share the land trust’s goal of providing permanently affordable and resident-controlled cooperative housing to benefit low and middle income seniors from diverse backgrounds, now and forever. We became the first elder cooperative project of the Bay Area Community Land Trust in 2016. We draw technical, financial, and managerial support from the Bay Area Community Land Trust. The Bay Area Community Land Trust will own the land where our residences are located and will have a 99-year ground lease with Hibiscus Commons that restricts increases in the monthly assessments of residents and addresses financial management requirements of the cooperative.

Hibiscus Commons is considering three ownership models: a limited equity housing cooperative (LEHC) and a resident owned or managed nonprofit (RON or RMN). Learn about these models described by the Bay Area Community Land Trust BY CLICKING HERE.

Under each model, the Bay Area Community Land Trust will own the property. Under an LEHC, the members would own the building. Members would make an initial investment and would have some limited equity. When a member moves out, a new member would have to pay that equity to the old member, plus an agreed upon interest rate. Under a RON, the members would own the building as a nonprofit organization. Under an RMN, the Bay Area Community Land Trust would own the building. In both cases, the members would have no equity. There would be no move in costs for new members beyond the type of expenses a renter would commonly pay, such as a security deposit. It is easier to get funding as a nonprofit organization using one of these ownership models and these models have the lowest set up cost.

Because purchasing a property at today’s market value would preclude maintaining monthly assessments (similar to rent) at an affordable level, we will seek financial support such as public funding or acquiring a donated or below market value property.

During this planning stage of the project, aspiring members pay dues of $5 per month and full members pay dues of $10 per month to cover general expenses. These dues are not refundable if you leave Hibiscus Commons before we have a property. Any major expenses during the planning stages of the project will be approved by consensus. When approving the expense, the group will decide if it is reimbursable upon a member leaving the group. Because this decision is made by consensus, you will not be required to make any expenditures you do not approve of.

An initial investment by residents would only be required if Hibiscus Commons chooses to become a limited equity cooperative (LEHC). In this case, members would need to invest on the order of $10,000 to $15,000 for their share in the cooperative. If Hibiscus Commons chooses to become a Resident-Owned Nonprofit (RON) or a Resident-Managed Nonprofit (RMN), no initial investment is required. The resident would only be responsible for monthly assessments (similar to rent) and a security deposit in accordance the Hibiscus Commons Occupancy Agreement. Under any ownership model, members may also loan the nonprofit money. Any money that a member invests in the property would be a loan to the nonprofit and would not be payable if a member moves out, although Hibiscus Commons would continue to make payments in accordance with the original terms of the loan agreement. See "Who will own the Hibiscus Commons property" for a brief description of these ownership models.

This will depend on the type of ownership structure Hibiscus Commons selects. For example, if Hibiscus Commons chooses a to be a Limited Equity Housing Cooperative (LEHC), any departing member would be returned the full value of their original share investment (equity), plus interest when they move out. If Hibiscus Commons chooses to be a Resident Owned Nonprofit or Resident Managed Nonprofit, leaving Hibiscus Commons would be very similar to moving out of a rental unit, and the security deposit would be returned.

Annual increases in monthly assessments (similar to rent) will be limited by the ground lease with the Bay Area Community Land Trust which will insure that housing costs remain affordable as members age and will also become even more affordable over time for future residents compared to market rents. We intend to provide many of the benefits of assisted living through mutual support and exchange of services, avoiding the financial burden of typical assisted living facilities.


Living Arrangements

We are seeking to buy property in the East Bay, generally Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville, El Cerrito, Richmond, or northern Oakland. Our goal is to locate in an area that is convenient to public transportation and retail services.

Ideally, we would like to remain relatively small, with 10 to 15 units. The final size, however, will depend on the property we ultimately acquire.

Hibiscus Commons will include individual living units with a private kitchen and bathroom. Though members can share a unit, we are not looking for a house to share as roommates. Depending on the property, there may be two or three bedroom apartments available. Some Hibiscus Commons members have expressed a desire for two bedrooms, one of which would be used for a studio or office.

This will depend on when we secure a property and funding.

Hibiscus Commons intends to provide many features of assisted living through mutual support and exchange of services, helping members avoid the financial burden of typical assisted living facilities. As residents age and the need for assistance increases, residents may agree to pool resources to share outside or live-in helpers for daily living activities, such as personal care or house cleaning. Hibiscus Commons will provide space for live-in helpers as is feasible, but will not be a skilled nursing facility. Residents needing skilled care will need to move to an appropriate facility through their own arrangement.