Homeowner Association Debacle

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Only in the backyard!
Only allowed in the backyard!

My husband and I are in the beginning process of living a more self-sufficient lifestyle since his retirement from the military, but since we live in a “Deed Restricted” development we are limited in the things we can. Due to living with the constant watchful eye of a Homeowners Association (HOA) I have been wondering about the development of Homeowner Associations and why have we allowed ourselves to be governed while trying to own a home. I understand the need for a management company if your home is in a gated community that provides security and outdoor maintenance. I have a hard time understanding why Homeowner Associations have become such an accepted normal in our society. In many of these communities you pay a fee to have the corner of a roadway looking nice, or the area around a community mailbox clean, but this also comes with the constant watchful eye of a management company dictating that you keep your yards weed free, or the paint on your home done, or even ensure that your driveway has no blemishes.

I attempted to do some research about where these communities that are a part of our normal life came about and discovered that the first planned community was in New York and was constructed by William Levitt. It seems he was creating a community in which military veterans could purchase a low cost home with a few restrictions, like no hanging a laundry line in your front yard. I had a hard time finding any other history related to Homeowners Associations. The only thing that I could determine is builders decided to create communities for people that had similar beliefs. Unfortunately this idea has blown up into something that has many people frustrated, but also feeling that they don’t have many options for purchasing a home unless they are willing to accept the restrictions of an HOA.

Many of the reasons that I became interested in our desire to have an HOA is because now that I would like to be more self-sufficient I can’t and I find that a bizarre choice in Americas living style. We have spent years fighting for our freedoms but yet we are willing to live in a house that we are purchasing but have an outside source dictate how our yard looks, what we can plant and encouraging the use of chemicals to maintain a pristine appearance that is unrealistic in the daily flow of life. I recently read an article in Green Living, Go Native by Adam Stone in which he reported “Last year, Texas passed a law that prevents homeowner associations from prohibiting the use of native grasses or Xeriscapes in landscaping.” I find it absolutely appalling that we have to pass a law to regulate a natural ecofriendly landscape. Seriously people isn’t the health of our planet more important than your yard looking better than the neighbors. How amazing would it be if we utilized our HOA living to create an environment of growing different vegetables to share a meal with our neighbors? Community living is suppose to create a sense of community and neighborly living, instead we have a fear of doing something wrong and offending the HOA gods. When it comes to a single family home I think HOA’s are a bad idea.

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4 Replies to “Homeowner Association Debacle”

  1. Anna,
    I’d be interested to read more about your vision for a “more self-sufficient lifestyle”. I write about HOAs, and we’ve covered things like xeriscaping, clotheslines, victory gardens, etc. Is this the kind of thing you’re thinking of? Are there other issues too? Sometimes these topics create big waves in a community, sometimes not. I certainly agree that HOAs need to keep up with environmental realities — for example here in California, like most of the West, we’re in a severe drought. Yet some HOAs still want to fine owners for letting lawns go brown. That’s just irresponsible. However, I wouldn’t say that means HOAs by definition are irresponsible. They just need to be well managed. I wonder if others in you community share your view, and might get your HOA to change the restrictions that are unreasonable.
    Regardless, I appreciate your thoughtful approach. Please keep writing.

    1. Matt, I do plan to share our plans and adventures as we continue our self-sufficiency journey. We do want to have livestock so living in an HOA is not part of our long term goal. In the short term we are gardening and I would enjoy having chickens, but that is a restriction in our current HOA. Our community is small, under 100 homes and many of them are currently rentals due to the poor housing market. In North Florida the environmental issue we deal with is run off and the excessive use of chemicals for weed control. I agree that if HOA’s were well managed they may be a benefit, but it seems to find one is like finding a needle in a hay stack.

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