Have you ever wondered just who lives in a homeowners association? While the developers and special interests are marketing to almost everyone, when problems arise with an association (HOA) we often hear the statement, "HOAs are not for everyone, If you can't follow the rules, move out." So I wondered.
The 2010 Census doesn't collect any demographics. A search of the US Census websites reveal plenty of details about race, education, income, type of home, its structure, etc and even if its a condominium. But nothing about HOAs, the planned community subdivision as many states distinguish between residential communities in general and a condominium. And neither can any HOA demographics be found on state government websites simply because HOA data is not collected and correlated with overall state demographics. The only data seems to come from the national trade group promoting and supporting the HOA form of housing, Community Associations Institute (CAI).
In its 2007 survey on homeowner satisfaction, Zogby International, the research firm that conducted the telephone survey, provided a glimpse at just who lives in HOAs. While neither Zogby nor CAI continue to provide online access to the methodology and details of the survey, a copy is available on the Constitutional Local Government website. A comparison with the survey sample findings and the 2000 Census is shown in Table 1 and one cannot help notice the large differences in the percentages between the sample and the Census data. Could these differences be the result of an unrepresentative sampling of the HOA population, or is there indeed a distinct segmentation of the overall population?
The comparison suggests that the HOA population represents a distinct class or subset of American society: the senior, educated, white, well-off segment of America. If true, then the demo-graphics reflected in Table 1 should be of concern to the policy makers. And well it should since industry data reveals a surprising, to many, 19.6% of Americans live under a HOA regime. That's slightly higher than either the Black or Hispanic minority percentages.
As Table 2 shows, the growth in HOAs continues, but not as rapidly as earlier. While the graph in Table 2 does introduce a distortion due to the 2-year periods, the 10-year increases between 1990 – 2000 and 2000 – 2010 are about the same, roughly 4%. This increase is about half of the whopping 7.8% increase from 1980 – 1990. Even if there is a leveling-off, we can expect actual the number of people living in HOAs to increase as the US population continues to grow, and as more and more towns and cities mandate HOAs for new developments.
But, suppose the survey sample of some 709 interviews is not representative of the general HOA population? Is there data available that might offer a glimpse into the demographics of the general HOA populations? Obviously, we must await a valid survey or study into HOA demographics to clarify this supposition based on this limited survey, bit is there something we can hang our hat on today? I decided that preliminary data was available to give us this important glimpse, so I conducted a non-scientific, "take a peek" analysis of my own.
My methodology was to randomly select some 25 HOAs in Maricopa County, AZ and to look into the single minority issue of Hispanics living in HOAs. Because of the lack of accessible data, I relied on lot ownership records as given in the county subdivision parcel records, and used Spanish surnames as the criteria for Hispanic ownership. I obtained data on the 8 city/towns represented by the selected sample HOAs, as well as county and state data.
Table 3 compares the city/town Hispanic percentages, based on the 2000 Census, with the results found from the HOA county records. The 2000 Census showed a population of 25% Hispanics in Arizona and the sample shows 24%, with the sample average of only 10%. The 2008 update gave a 31% Hispanic population in Maricopa County. The deviations from the Census population data indicate that the Hispanic population in HOAs did not conform to the overall county data, and that HOAs have a significantly smaller Hispanic population.
Now, seeking an explanation for under-representation of Hispanics in HOAs, I reasoned that this smaller population figure could be the fact that Hispanics in Arizona own a smaller proportion of the homes than non-Hispanics. In fact a study by HUD based on 2000 Census data, appendix table 1a, revealed about a 50% reduction in ownership of homes for Hispanics: 24.8% for non-Hispanics vs. 12.4% for Hispanics. Even with this substantial reduction in the number of Hispanic owners expected to be found by this analysis of county ownership records, the sample still reflects a significant difference from the Census data.
This question of HOA demographics needs to be given serious study and appropriate research conducted, since there is the implication that HOAs are a vehicle for class structuring within the US. The policy makers should revisit pro-HOA legislation and local government policy that increasingly mandates an HOA for all new home construction.