In Action

Apartment Building

Apartment building with plants and surrounding greenery

At this apartment building just outside of downtown Asheville, a garden flourishes. The people who live here tend it, sharing in the produce and beauty. They share duties like taking out the compost, pulling the garbage cans to the curb, sweeping the steps. 

Payments made by the residents go into a shared account that funds repairs, improvements, and regular monthly payments to the property owner. Additionally, the empowered residents may make repairs and implement improvements using this shared resource.

Regular meetings keep communications open. Instead of voting, collaboration is used to find solutions. Everyone is included in the meetings, and minutes are shared with the community. The owners can participate with their own input, or allow the residents to take leadership.

This community did not spring magically into being, but as a result of the dedicated communication and collaboration of its members. As well, this group encourages each member to feel the responsibility and pride in ownership of the property.

The mission here was to create an affordable housing solution that benefited all participants socially, financially, and physically in an increasingly difficult real estate market.

The point of this model is not to create or increase profit. Rather, profit dissolves as a motivator here as the group’s overall goal of affordable housing intends to be sufficiently supported by their own resources and abilities.

How did the Model Communities Association empower this solution?

When several units vacated at the same time, the executive director of Model Communities (who also lived there) approached the owner of the apartment building. Implementing this model would transform his relationship with his tenants from the traditional Landlord/Tenant hierarchy to one of shared community. Additionally, due to the self-governance of the residents and the Model Communities Association (MCA) managing the shared bank account, the amount of work and funds necessary for the owner to maintain and fund the property was reduced.

Living in a connected community attracts people. More than a few people have sought out MCA living arrangements because they want to live in a more connected environment. Our structure sets the intention to connect and comes with all of the benefits of doing so.

Making Agreements Creates a Home

Within the MCA structure, the tenants became residents in the community. As residents, they agree to the MCA creed which stipulates:

  • Respect for People and Resources
  • Participatory Contribution
  • Collaborative Coordination
  • Effective Communication

Read the full MCA Associate Creed here.

Along with this agreement, residents participate in regular meetings so that chores are shared equally, new projects can be initiated, and any other business of the building may be dealt with. The property owner may participate as well.

These collaborative meetings serve to keep the community engaged with each other as they use the toolset provided by the MCA. Learn more about the structure and tools here.

From these meetings, empowerment to make this property a real home emerges. The self-government of the residents permits a pride in the property with a dedication to make it a pleasant and well-kept space to live.

The occupancy agreement that each resident signs makes all of these requirements clear.

So, How Does the Money Work?

This same occupancy agreement delineates the monthly or weekly payment to be contributed by the resident.

These payments, made by the residents, go into a shared account that funds repairs, improvements, and regular monthly payments to the property owner. This account is managed by the MCA and shared with by members of the property’s “circle”. While this shared account may grow and the property owner may achieve profit from this arrangement, the intent here is not to make money or be profitable. This financial arrangement exists to fulfill the responsibilities of the community.

Let’s See an Example

In a traditional landlord/tenant relationship, a tenant or group of tenants might approach the landlord with the idea of putting in a garden on the apartment building property. Since the landlord wants to maximize his profits and does not have any agreement with the tenants outside of a monetary one, his motivation to allow the tenants to put in a garden is low. Reducing all landscaping to the most basic and easily managed lawn with simple shrubs makes monetary sense.

Along with this profit issue, the landlord has no assurance that the tenants will continue to maintain the garden and not just abandon the garden when they leave. Nor do the tenants have any assurance that the landlord will not pull his consent without warning once he has granted it. This situation leaves everyone with feelings of uneasiness and distrust.

The MCA supported all of these aspects of installing and maintaining a garden.

In this apartment building, during the regular associate meeting (all of the participants in the MCA are called associates), one of the residents brought up the idea of creating a garden. With the consent and collaboration of the Apartment Building Circle (which includes the property owner), the residents who wanted to garden formed a Garden Circle to initiate and manage the garden. Duties within this circle include but are not limited to digging, planting, weeding, harvesting, and managing the compost. Everyone contributes and receives from this garden, including the property owner who owns a uniquely verdant apartment building.

Because of the collaborative nature of the MCA structure and the way that it builds trust among the participants, the property owner knows he can trust and rely upon the participants to manage this garden and keep it viable. The participants feel ownership and pride in the beauty of the garden and receive vegetables and flowers which can be shared throughout the building. They know they can trust the property owner to support them in the creation and management of this garden.

To help maintain this trust between associates, the MCA uses Tokens of Appreciation to build Trust Profiles. Read about these tools by clicking here.

The Result

Today, at this same apartment building, the results show on the street with flowers and vegetable plants displayed on every level and a garden surrounding the building. With the Model Communities Association managing the shared account, the owner can relax and enjoy the results. In turn, the residents have transformed this small apartment building on a sunny street into a home they are proud of, and where they can afford to live.