Contemporaneous critique of the 1964 FHA-ULI homeowners association model

In 1967, just three years after the ULI publication of The Homes Association Handbook, Technical Bulletin #50 [for an anlaysis of this bulletin, see n.1]  (which I have repeatedly designated as the “HOA bible”), a Univ. of Calif. Public Affairs Report criticized the concept or model of a homes association [n. 2], as HOAs were called back then.  The value in looking back is that after the passage of many years there has been the inescapable slow, but steady, erosion of the values and attitudes that once were. Looking back, we can see more clearly what was gained, and what was lost.
 
First, here’s a quote from what the editors of the 1994 book, Common Interest Communities (see n. 2, containing a reprint of the article) wrote:
 
“Scott raised doubts about the increasing use of mandatory homeowners’ associations . . . [they] weakened citizens’ connection with their local government; their exclusivity encouraged economic and racial segregation, thus weakening the fabric of American society; and the central role of the developer and the requirement of property ownership  . . . weakened local democracy.”
 
Scott is concerned with the privatization of government by profit seeking developers who bypasses local government.
 
“Basic criticisms of the FHA-ULI homes association policy are . . . . the assignment of open space, parks . . . bypasses local government [who are] custodians of such property. . . . Any significant inclusion of multiple dwellings appears to be discouraged by FHA policies, and lower-income brackets [renters, perhaps] are viewed as a likely source of special problems.  Policies of exclusiveness [sic] are only thinly veiled as efforts to  ‘maintain high standards’, or ‘insure property values’, or provide a ‘private community.’ [Note the inclusion of the mortgage entity].
 “The automatic homes association and its binding covenant would be designed and established by the developer [sic] before a single house had been sold — that is why they are called ‘automatic.’  Yet anything so important as the life of a community as control of . . . shared facilities is sufficiently affected with public interest to justify a strong public role . . . when the community-to-be is without residents.
 
For the protection of its own interests, FHA-ULI urge the developer to retain control [sic] of each homes association [and] to exercise a strong benevolent paternalism [like a grandfatherly autocratic government] in determining the composition of the association’s leadership and influencing its policies.  Surely alternative methods can be found for a more publicly responsible stewardship . . . . The 1964 ULI report [The Homes Association Handbook] recognizes some real difficulties in making these ‘private governments’ [sic] work effectively and responsibly.
 
“The legitimate desire for maximum financial stability and security of the housing developments — viewed as investments —  [read as developer and FHA investments] appears to be given overriding importance that it may obscure other equally important goals [like democratic governance and remaining subject to the Constitution].” 
 
In this 1967 article, Scott concludes with, “Associations are not the final answer.  We should not be satisfied —  as FHA and the Urban Land Institute appear to have been — with the assumption that home association provides a final answer.”
 
 
We should ask ourselves what has happened over the past 43 years since this 1967 report.   Why weren’t corrective measures taken by state legislatures to recognize HOAs as indeed de facto governments, and that they must be made equivalent to a public entity?  To what extent did the creation of the Community Associations Institute (CAI) in 1973, just 6 years after this the publication of this report, have on future developments?   Many of us who are interested in the facts can see how CAI influenced legislatures as they re-constituted themselves as a national lobbying organization in 1992 to oppose the voices of reform.
 
 
 
Notes
1.  The Foundations of Homeowners Associations and the New America, “Part I, The Mass Merchandising of Planned Communities”, George K. Staropoli, 2006. 
 
2.  “The homes association: Will ‘private government’ serve the public interest?”, Stanley Scott, Public Affairs Report, Bulletin of the Institute of the Governmental Studies, Univ of Calif., Berkely, Vol. 8, No. 1 (1967).  Reprinted in Common interest communities: Private governments and the public interest, Stephen E. Barton and Carol Silverman. eds, Institute of Governmental Studies Press, Berkeley, CA, 1994.
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Published in: on January 24, 2010 at 12:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

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