This post will be updated like a wiki, should we need to make any further changes or clarifications. It is based on a proposal (internal link) that was adopted by consent on 26/03/2023.
To make sure that the building of a cohousing can be done in a way that is financially safe for all participants, it is essential to know that everybody is able to pay for their units. This is important, because if it would happen that one or more households won’t be able to pay, either the project gets stuck, partially unbuilt, or the other households need to pay the money that is missing.
Because most people are not comfortable with sharing the details of their financial situation with people they know, in The Reef we work with two “confesseurs”, who will ask each household some questions so as to assess whether a household’s financial means are in line with their desires for their unit. They will also ask for some proof, like for example a copy of your bank statements. All this information is confidential.
Based on the information that the confesseurs receive, they give each household a “score”, along the following lines:
A = no issues, go ahead
B = probably doable, but some obstacles to overcome and/or it might be tight
C = not sure this is possible
D = impossible
In addition to the financial verification the confesseurs also offer a bit of financial advise on demand. As Alberto said: “At least for me, meeting with the confesseurs felt like meeting my own personal financial advisors. They had helpful hints about obtaining credit, for example, and they were preparing me to interacting with banks for doing so.”
A crucial factor that determines someone’s score is the preferences for their unit. The one and only question is whether your financial means are sufficient to pay for the unit that you would like to buy. Therefore a score should not be taken as an absolute proxy for somebody’s wealth. It is very well possible that a household with an average income gets a C if they want a really big unit, or even a D, if they also want a swimming pool. Likewise, it is also possible that somebody with a relatively lower income can get an A or a B if they only want a rather small unit. For this reason, we recommend that a score is accompanied with an approximate amount the desired unit might cost or square metres (that will help scoring be realistic and comparable).
That being said there are a couple of factors that generally lead to certain scores. Here’s an indicative list:
Savings: If you have enough savings to pay for the entire unit, you’ll get an A. Likewise, if you can finance a significant share of your unit (20% or more) with your savings, you are very likely to easily get a mortgage at the bank, and so you’ll likely get an A.
Your labour contract: Banks like certainty, so if your labour contract involves some uncertainty (e.g. contract of limited duration, being self-employed) the confesseurs may give you a B and ask you to visit your banker or the Fonds de Logements and inform them of the outcome. Without savings and a full-time labour contract it is possible that you’ll get a D.
Nevertheless, each case is considered individually and with a lot of attention. Because The Reef highly values inclusion, the confesseurs are willing to help you find any possible option to finance your unit and get the green light.
See this post about size and price and price estimation: How to estimate the size and price of your appartments
On the website of* Immotheker *you can do a financial simulation of your lending capacity. If you are eligible, you can also do a simulation on the website of the Fonds de Logement, which will have more generous conditions.
For the first meeting, the confesseurs like to meet up in person, but in case of need it’s also possible to meet them online. The meeting is very informal, and the confesseurs will ask you a couple of questions about how big you envisage your unit to be, and then about your financial situation (monthly income, savings, financial assets, …). In general, the confesseurs will then ask you to show them some proof of a couple of things, like for example a printscreen of your savings account.
Once the confesseurs have all information they need, they allocate each household a score, plus an indicative maximum number of square meters (e.g. “A provided that maximum 70 m²”). This information will be shared with one person in Team Finance in charge of the confesseur process. This person will keep it confidential and inform the Group Coordinator and the Secretary about the scores . The Secretary will be the one sharing the scores with each individual household.
Households who receive a B or C will then need to go to the bank and/or the Fonds du Logements to get a more precise picture of how much money they can borrow. They will then have to send this information to the confesseurs, who will eventually give them the green light (or not).
The ultimate deadline for getting the green light from the confesseurs is the moment you are requesting Full Membership. It is thus recommended to get started as soon as you are seriously considering to join The Reef as an Associate Member.
Until households have become Full Members the scores are known on a need-to-know basis. This will likely include the person in Team Finance in charge of the confesseurs process, the Secretary and the Group Coordinator, but we trust each other enough to not introduce a rigid definition of “need-to-know”. These are not state secrets, and we need to use our energy for things that are more urgent and important.
Once households have become a Full Member everybody gets access to everybody’s score.
Reasons are the following:
The score barely tells you anything we didn’t already know. We are building a cohousing together, and so everybody will know about everybody how much their units will cost. It is also rather likely that it will become known how the unit is financed (savings, bank or Fonds de Logement) because we’ll probably be having small talk about interest rates, and also the hassle of transferring the money to The Reef’s bank account will depend on where the money will come from.
Knowing about people’s scores will likely make it easier to empathise with each other when we are talking about money. There is no stigma related to getting a B, a C or a D, but it’s good to know, so that we can accommodate wherever needed.
Jean-Pierre Fraas: He is a retired banker with a lot of experience, and was indeed the confesseur principale of Brutopia. He is also the father of Serge, the Fraas in Stekke&Fraas.
Marcel Heymans: He is a retired businessman. He is in a sense part of The Reef’s group, as he wants to buy an inclusive unit (he rents below market price to refugees). He is also Lie’s father.
When somebody leaves The Reef, the Secretary takes action to delete all data we have about this household. This includes sending an email to the confesseurs to request the deletion of all data.
Because it is more difficult to delete data in mailboxes (e.g. because all scores are communicated in one go) it is recommended to sign up with the confesseurs with your first name only.