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Who Lives in Homeowners Associations? Does Anybody Know?

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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.

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  • Yeah this Article looks interesting.. I m just wondering about the above comment? Mayflower Compact

  • Frank Wodley

    HOA Syndrome is alive and well in mobile/manufactured home parks across America. Residents own their homes, yet most pay rent to a landlord. In this case the landlord is the HOA and he often controls the residents with an iron fist, using unfair and unequally enforced Rules and Regulations, senior abuse, harassment, and intimidation. Residents often exibit similar symptoms as described for HOA Syndrome.

    Did you know that residents who are late paying their rent, by as few as 11 days, can be evicted and lose their home to the park? Yes you read it right, they can LOSE THEIR HOME!

    Additionally, park owners violate often the law in an effort to evict residents and take their homes for nothing!

    I run a state-wide advocacy in California called the Coalition of Mobilehome Owners – California. We now have free individual limited legal services for all our members – membership is only $25/year.

    United we stand, divided we fall. COMO-CAL and its members stand with Gary Solomon and those fighting against resident abuse! After all, we are Americans even though we live in a mobile/manufactured home on land not owned by us. If it were not for us, landlords would have NO INCOME!

    [Personal contact info deleted]

  • Read about Tone Ranch Estates HOA and the depths that John Calleja, Tony Haddad, and others on the board will go to try to control their neighbors. John Calleja has been served four times with injunctions against harassment and even threatened to kill his neighbor. It’s documented in the Gilbert police report.

    It’s sickening!

    HOAs must be stopped!

  • @Isabelle: Unfortunately in every industry there are individuals and companies who are generally good, and those who are generally bad. Lately in the HOA Management industry, all we’ve heard about are the bad examples, thus fueling the fire that Americans feel toward HOAs and HOA management companies in general.

    But I do assure you, there are some very good management companies who have the best of intentions and genuinely care about their communities and the homeowners who live within them.

    We have recently launched a service that attempts to help homeowners and HOA board members find these reputable companies. It’s called simply, HOA Management Directory.

    There is also some useful information available for interviewing management companies to make sure you actually get a good one.

    I hope this helps 🙂

  • Isabelle Nidever

    This “site locates HOA Management companies for their community association or condo association.”? Do you have one whose staff will attend a meeting (with compensation, mind you) without checking their text messages to keep up with a sports event? Are there any non-profit HOA Management companies?

  • Many HOA boards use our service to locate property management companies. They also use our site to locate HOA Management companies for their community association or condo association.

  • Our HOA is also worse than useless for the most part. Interesting that you mention goslings, because a breeding pair of ducks has just taken up residence in the pond at the back of our condo. Should their amorous endeavours be successful, it will be interesting to see what our HOA will do [cough]absolutelynothing[cough].

  • We once lived in a sub where there was a HOA. In fact, I was the elected secretary many years in a row. I don’t know how it is in other states, but here in Michigan it’s a voluntary action to pay the dues belong. It is also equally difficult to get anyone, in the association or not, to comply with bylaws and regulations. I found during my tenure and our time in that particular house that the HOA is only strong if everyone belongs and if everyone agrees. If 50% are allowed not to belong and don’t agree, well, then you have violations all over the place.

    If there was one good thing about our mostly ineffective HOA, it was that our dues paid for private road maintenance (even though the county was supposed to cover it), funded the relocation of goslings every year, and provided social activities for kids and adults.

    I don’t think I’d buy another home with a HOA though.

  • I feel I must reply to Roger’s comment on “the order of clubs.” HOAs cannot be viewed as just another private club, like the golf club, or any other social or charity organization.

    Very importantly is the fact that HOAs impose mandatory membership for lot owners, and the compulsory payment of assessments. You cannot quit or stop paying your assessments as is permitted with these other private organizations. Yes, they can impose fines and dues, but they cannot compel membership, which would make it equivalent to involuntary servitude. They may even have the right to collect unpaid dues or fees, especially if the nonpayment of those fees resulted in damages to the association, like the purchase of products or services on behalf of the member.

    But, the HOA cannot only lien your home, which can affect your credit rating, but it can also take your home under foreclosure rights for the nonpayment of assessments and wipe out all your equity. In the usual scenario, the homeowner loses everything, which can be a $200,000 home for dues owed the HOA of perhaps $1,000, and attorney fees, not payable to the HOA for damages, of another $3,000. That can easily be viewed as a violation of the 8th amendment on cruel and unusual punishment. And, not only are these rights contained in the CC&RS, but are also mimicked by state laws.

    No, HOAs are vastly different legal entities that warrant warnings and notices by appropriate state agencies, but are nowhere to be found in any state.

    As to the second part of Roger’s comment, I ask 1) are the buyers been given all the facts, have not been given half-truths in order to make a fully informed decision, and 2) are buyers free to join without duress, like the absence of free market alternatives to non-HOA new development? Have homeowners really consented to be governed under a system that simply requires the CC&Rs to be filed in the county clerk’s office in order to bind buyers, sight unseen? And allow me to skip question of the requirements for a bona fide surrender of constitutional, and other rights and freedoms, absent in the HOA legal scheme.

    I think another article on the history and background of HOAs is in order.

  • Well, aren’t HOA’s on the order of clubs – you’re free to join and just as free not to?

    How and why should the state dictate the bylaws of a private association?

    In a sense, Doug, your argument seems to fall flat on its face – especially when applies, for example, to Rand Paul’s notions concerning the applicability of the Civil Rights Act to privately-owned businesses.

    Could you explain?

  • Doug, there are other existing vehicles for governing subdivisions than the profit-oriented, oppressive HOA. They could easily be a special taxing district that would be a public entity, and thereby subject to the protections of the 14th Amendment.

    All those features of a planned community, the real estate “package” governed by the HOA, can be retained by declaring the assessments to be special district taxes, the rules and regs are now local district ordinances, the amenities remain “private” by restricting use to only those now paying the special district taxes.

    All do-able today.

    For more, see my blog and search on “muni-zation”.

  • Doug Hunter


    Covenants can never be in violation of the law, so if the law states that ‘no entity shall be able to prevent… xyz … from occuring on your private property’ then you have in effect nullified those restrictive covenants because they cannot stand opposed to the law.

    There were nice, well kept neighborhoods before HOA’s and there would be without them. Perhaps it’s a sign of the state in this country when we feel we have need of these types of organizations to goad us into being respectful to our neighbors and doing nice things. It’s the same general feeling I have towards the other topic regarding legalized discrimination.

    The ultimate question is why must I live in a fucking police state because other people are too damn stupid to wipe their own asses or avoid flipping off minority babies or plan their lives any further than one week into the future and are so unpleasant that they can’t live within 200 ft of each other without getting the law involved regarding what time the trash gets set out? I don’t want laws and organizations that bring us down to the lowest common denominator. Is that too much to ask of a ‘civilized’ nation?

  • That’s an interesting comment, Dave, but no, this premise was not missed.

    Your comment is simply saying that we would expect wealthy, white, educated people living in Vail, CO and Paradise Valley, AZ. But, we find HOAs throughout a state including urban areas and in areas dominated by minorities where the population deviations show smaller percentages for Hispanics. Look at Table 3, all urban areas, where Scottsdale has only 7% Hispanics, but Phoenix and Chandler have 34% and 46% Hispanic populations. Still, all of these cities show the HOA Hispanic population much lower than the norm for their respective cities.

    HOAs have been mass marketed to everyone, from those resort or retirement home communities to plain ol’ residential communities of just 20 – 30 homes without any common areas or amenities. Not presented in my article is the average size of an HOA in units: just 82 units.

    Well, I guess we can argue that Hispanics don’t like HOA living, or that they aren’t wealthy enough for HOA living, which raises another issue with HOAs since they were first marketed as “affordable housing.” Anyone doing the math on income requirements for housing and the effect of HOA dues on the APR calculation will find that HOA housing is less affordable.

    But Dave, aren’t you agreeing with the data that shows HOAs as preferential to white, affluent, educated and senior people regardless of motivation? Which is my main point: HOAs create a classification and segment society into “haves and have nots.” And maybe minorities really don’t want to live in an HOA, but must live in an HOA if they want to live in new housing. Chandler, one of the higher Hispanic populations, mandates HOAs for all new subdivision housing. Maybe that explains the distortion as a result of, to some extent, public policy? But, who knows the reality of the situation? Nobody, because nobody is doing any analysis.

    Shouldn’t this 19% of the population be of concern to the policy makers? All the data about “we the people” already exists in government hands, and the limited Census data is not really needed to do the demographics. But, apparently, nobody cares. They should care.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    No, Doug, you’re wrong on your point #1. We wanted to open an adult family home for the elderly or disabled which (like all other home-based businesses) is strictly verboten by the HOA CC&R. So I did some digging, and found that the state Supreme Court had backed an HOA that sued a homeowner to stop him from operating an adult family home. If you’ll check around, this has also been the ruling in other states.

  • Doug Hunter

    Don’t let politicians BS you and say they can’t do anything. This is what I would pass tomorrow if I was king (and it’s constitutional)

    1) HOA’s may not restrict members from doing anything on private property that is allowed under city ordinance. HOA’s power extends to public areas and shared amenities only.

    2) HOA foreclosures cannot take place in under 3 years from an intitial violation or for less than 10% of the value of the home.

    Problem solved!

  • While I appreciate all the effort which went into this article, I think that there’s a basic premise which was missed which renders most of it irrelevant. All these statistics which suggest whiteness or affluence all just come down to who can afford to buy homes and who wants to live in the suburbs rather than in an urban setting.


  • To add to RichFlocker’s straight-forward comments, “When owners discover their dream home does not come with the freedoms expected/assumed, they become depressed. NOBODY helps them”, here’s an excerpt from my email letter to an Arizona Legislator who had asked me if I could be of help.

    “Sad to say, I cannot help him. Under present legal conditions, no one can, or will be able help him attain justice — court costs, pro-HOA state laws, and an adhesion CC&Rs “contract” favoring the HOA all put the odds on the HOA’s side. I am speaking not about the dissatisfaction issues, but the real violations of state laws and the governing documents. Bob must spend his own money, like so many other homeowners, in order to obtain justice against lawbreaker associations. While state laws make fines and foreclosure against homeowners legal, they do nothing to punish violator associations and management firms.

    “The statutes do little to protect the homeowner. He is treated with disrespect and indignity as a second-hand citizen. On one hand the statutes are “telling” the people it is of general public interest and benefit to get “deadbeats” to obey the governing documents, and to pay those assessments. But, on the other hand, complaints against the association are dismissed as a private matter without appropriate enforcement — a class 2 misdemeanor, for example — and are not a public concern for the legislature. This failure to punish lawbreakers when it comes to associations amounts to a dual standard against the people in favor of private entities that function as authoritarian de facto private governments.”

  • Consumers of housing live in them. People who don’t want to live in apartments or condos buy HOUSES. People who want a place for Fido, and who want to experience OWNING property buy houses. Certain rights are assumed to come with owning property. There is no disclosure from the seller that you don’t have the right to choose your own paint color, or put up solar panels. These are things Americans take for granted- at least Americans that have never lived in an HOA take them for granted. What is the percentage of suicides in HOAs compared to non HOA properties? I believe HOAs spread diseases of the mind – depression and anxiety and rage and oppression. When owners discover their dream home does not come with the freedoms expected/assumed, they become depressed. NOBODY helps them. Legislators cater to the special interests and most do not understand these truths – these are a fascist form of governance. Lawyers rack up tens of thousands of dollars and still get nowhere close to solving the problem. The sue-happy HOA lawyers attack owners without notice or opportunity to resolve the “violation” and use Gestapo tactics to overwhelm homeowners in surprise attacks. Tens of thousands of dollars go down..depression spirals into despair. BANG! The consumer chooses to die rather than endure the emotional gas chamber having lost the freedoms and benefits of “owning” a home. Oppressed Americans live in them. When will we be given the choice in a simple democratic ELECTION? Ask the present day members – YES OR NO – do you want to have a mandatory HOA? Oppressed and silenced people live in these Nazi Stalags. Ask them the question and poll them, this data has never been compiled! I bet you wont get 50% to say yes on renewal of the HOA’s powers, so why do we not require this question be put to all Mandatory owners and find the truth? How can we know the “will of the people” if we never ask this question? All new housing comes with Mandatory HOAs, created by the developers so people have never really been given the choice. The developers create them for the developer’s benefit – to the detriment of the future owners who must live with this infection of tyranny.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    I do – and I agree with Dave that it’s a form of local tyranny, because from what I’ve seen it’s usually those who have too much time on their hands and/or who are too nosy who tend to want to be an HOA officer.