Analysis of The Homes Association Handbook

Urban Land Institute Technical Bulletin #50 (1964)


The reader of this publication cannot but come away with the distinct realization that the authors promoted certain aspects of planned communities while deliberately avoiding a solid presentation of a number of serious concerns. It is a comprehensive manual, except for any discussion of the form of democratic governance of the community, for the mass merchandising of a profit-making business enterprise. Not only does this 422 page publication promote the selling of planned communities to the public, the federal government agencies, local governments, the mortgage companies and to the Realtors, it provides sample Declarations, Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws for use by the attorneys for developers(1). This use of sample forms(2) (similar to the legal forms that can be found in any legal research library) serve as guidelines and is a common practice used by the attorneys, which explains the commonality of many of the most oppressive and harsh terms and conditions imposed on homebuyers.

Yet, the word “democracy” is mentioned only a handful of times, and in the context of democratic form of leadership as with,

The other [as opposed to a bureaucratic style of leadership] requires more participation in order to give members a feeling of satisfaction with association operations; it may be called the ‘democratic style’. (3) [emphasis added].

And, when the Handbook addresses specific covenants for inclusion in the Declaration for the developer turnover of the association to the homeowners,

It is our conclusion, however, that generally it is unwise to plan for the selection of the management of a homes association by something less than a fully democratic process (See Chapter 15).

However, Chapter 15, “Creating the Association and its Facilities”, simply deals with a variety of non-governing topics, and includes marketing techniques as well as weighted voting in favor of the developer and benevolent paternalism by the developer controlled board.

Another example of the complete disregard for the constitutional and property rights of the homebuyers are the guidelines for handling the priority of liens that the authors felt was needed to protect the interests of the developer and the mortgagor, and to insure the continued existence of the corporate entity proposed to manage the planned community, the “automatic homes association”(4) . While this Handbook recognizes the problem with the timing of when the covenants running with the land become binding, at the time the developer sells the first lot, it advises that the states will protect the HOA from any homestead exemption because of this priority of liens(5), but urges the need to insert wording to grant the mortgagor a priority lien before this “developer” lien(6). The home-buying public protections, as was the intention of the various state legislatures when creating the homestead protection, was intentional disregarded by the advertising of this technical oversight.

Over the 42 years since the publication of The Homes Association Handbook, it has become the “bible” for the mass merchandising of planned communities with the accompanying affect on American society, its values and the loss of individual property rights, and the loss of fundamental rights and freedoms upon which this country was founded. The Handbook was supported by several federal agencies and real estate interests(7), and continues to be supported by these same entities along with state legislatures and local municipalities, with the same apparent disdain for the protection of American liberties and freedoms.

The mantra of “less government intervention”, this call for a laissez-faire policy by reputable libertarian public interest firms, masks the prevalent protectionism of planned communities by the states and their failure to protect a segment of society from the predator marketing tactics of the real estate industry.

1. Appendices F, G, H.
2. Appendices K, L.
3. In Chapter 16, Leadership Style, Skill and Sources, § 16.2, Bureaucratic of Democratic? It May Depend on Common Facilities.
4. Term used for today’s mandatory membership association.
5. “We believe that the lien of assessments will, in all states, be recognized as superior to and unaffected by the homestead exemption”. P. 322.
6. “In absence of an express provision altering priorities, the court held that the lien of the assessments was superior to the lien of the mortgagor . . . a suggested provision dealing with priorities may be found in Appendix F.” p. 321.
7. From the cover page: the Federal Housing Administration, US Public Health Service, Office of Civil Defense, Urban Renewal Administration, Veterans Administration, and the National Association of Home Builders. The Urban Land Institute was formed in 1936 as a research division of the National Association of Real Estate Boards (now the National Association of Realtors) under the name of the National Real Estate Foundation (see generally, Community Associations: The Emergence and Acceptance of a Quiet Innovation in Housing, Donald R. Stabile (Greenwood Press 2000).

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"The Voice for HOA Constitutionality". I have been a long-term homeowner rights authority, advocate and author of "The HOA-Land Nation Within America" (2019) and" Establishing the New America of independent HOA principalities" (2008). See HOA Constitutional Government at My efforts with HOAs took me to a broader concern that was deeply affecting the constituionality of HOAs. Those broad societal and plotical concerns caused me to start this new blog for my commentaries on the State of the New America.

11 thoughts on “Analysis of The Homes Association Handbook”

  1. 2006 August 23

    Mr. Staropoli’s analysis helps to explain the similarity of common interest developments and property owners associations throughout the US, because most used the Handbook as the reference. It also helps to explain the commonality of problems and abuses — all used the same defective (at least in part) Handbook.

    The discussion in Chapter 15 of the Handbook recommending democratic governance after turnover appears to be unfinished work. Creating the legislation for democratic governance can therefore be based on finishing the work in the Handbook. This may make it more difficult for the common interest development industry to oppose. After all, they recommended democratic governance.

    Don Nordeen
    Governance of Property Owners Associations

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