guest blog by Deborah Goonan
This story illustrates some disturbing, negative social trends in HOAs.
City House is a non-profit organization that teaches life skills to youths at risk for homelessness, age 18-22. The organization also provides supervised transitional living in a home environment for these young adults, efforts that have proven successful for more than two decades.
But after City House obtained and remodeled a 5-bedroom home in one affluent Texas HOA, Plantation Resort HOA 2 filed suit to block the youths from moving in.
According to the report, the HOA has concerns about negative effects on property values, and their legal suit argues that a household of unrelated youths does not fit the definition of “single family use” as defined in their Covenants and Restrictions.
Why is this disturbing?
Starting in the early 20th century, US Developers, landowners and homeowners began to use private deeds with Restrictive Covenants as a way to exclude particular non-Caucasian, non-Christian groups – such as African Americans, Asians, and people of the Jewish faith – from owning, leasing or occupying homes, with the possible exception of servants. The FHA’s practice of “redlining” further institutionalized the notion that the presence of the “wrong type” of people led to neighborhoods with lower property values. These practices continued even after the Supreme Court decision in Shelley v. Kraemer in 1948, because, although discriminatory covenants were found by the court to be unenforceable, they were not deemed invalid until passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, and sex. Familial status and disability were added in 1988 as additional protected classes. However, even to this day, discrimination occurs in less overt forms.
Plantation Resort 2 HOA happens to be an affluent neighborhood, and apparently some (though not all) homeowners – who would not appear on camera in the video link below – have “mixed feelings” and think that City House should take their operations “elsewhere.”
What is the objection? That these youths may come from poor families of diverse backgrounds? That the living arrangement is not a traditional family?
Perhaps they are of the mind, “HOAs are not for everyone,” a comment we hear over and over again from HOA proponents. Really? With HOA communities dominating most metropolitan areas, and rapidly spreading beyond the suburbs, where are people who do not fit into the HOA supposed to live? In my opinion, this is a classic case of Not-In-My-Back-Yard.
More fundamentally, WHY should certain groups of people be discouraged or denied housing? This issue was supposed to have been resolved with Fair Housing legislation. But because most HOAs are private corporations, they continue the process of creating Restrictive Covenants that do not overtly violate fair housing laws, yet somehow manage to get around the major intent of law. According to hud.gov, the law allows a narrow window of exemption for “housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members,” an exception that does not appear to apply to PR2 HOA.
What is the underlying intent of PR2 HOA’s “single-family use” restriction? In this case, the HOA rule for “single family use” has the effect of discriminating against poor, unmarried young adults who must live together to share expenses. So does this HOA really intend to disallow roommates? Hopefully the matter can be resolved amicably. Unfortunately, disadvantaged youths have already been given the message that they are not welcome at Plantation Resort 2.
We are left to consider: Has the proliferation of private HOAs created new ways to discriminate against certain groups of people by way of creative rule-making? Do these communities now foster fragmentation and exclusion by social class?