Texas Judge to Decide Meaning of ‘Family’ in HOA

guest blog by Deborah Goonan

This is an update to an earlier blog about the Plantation Resort 2 in Frisco, Texas. The PR2 HOA is filing a lawsuit against City House, to block use of a home they recently purchased and renovated for use as transitional living for homeless youths.

The local CBS affiliate has been covering the story, and the link to their video is below.

While PR2 HOA has allowed two young women to move into the home owned by City House, they have made it clear they do not want any more residents to join them. The house was originally intended for transitional living for 6-8 youths. Public records indicate that PR2 homes are good-sized, most with 4 bedrooms and between 2500 – 3000 square feet, with an average sale price hovering around $270,000.

This is the part that really sticks in my craw. A statement made by PR2 HOA Attorney Chad Robinson, Riddle & Williams:

“City House is a great cause. But, on the flip side, we can’t pick and choose which rules we enforce.”

To put this statement into perspective, let’s consider that the real estate industry has had a long history of creating all sorts of deed restrictions and business practices intentionally designed to homogenize neighborhoods in the interest of protecting home values. Up until Fair Housing and Civil rights legislation was enacted in the 1960s, federal housing and lending policies explicitly aided and abetted segregation between the haves and the have-nots, along racial lines.

Since the late 1960s, the real estate industry has created hundreds of thousands of HOAs, many of which continue similar, less explicit homogenizing practices by way of carefully crafted CC&Rs. And because the Rules are considered “contractual agreements,” and HOAs are not acknowledged as de facto governing entities or state actors, a lot of ambiguous and petty restrictions escape federal scrutiny.

In other words, you can agree to any rules and restrictions you want, even if they happen to be petty, socially reprehensible, un-American, or unconstitutional. Remember folks, in HOAs, The Bill of Rights Need Not Apply.

At issue in this dispute is whether a transitional living arrangement fits the definition of “family,” as specified in the governing documents for PR2 HOA. City House believes that their non-commercial use of the home as a stable living environment falls within the definition, but PR2 HOA Attorney Robinson does not.

But in 21st century America, what, exactly, constitutes a family? Gone are the days when most family households consisted of mom and dad with a couple of children. We have single-parent households, same-sex partners with children, families blended following remarriage after divorce or death of a spouse, unmarried couples with or without children, extended families that include grandparents and adult children. And what if you rent the home you own to unrelated roommates? Which of these falls into PR2 HOA’s narrow definition of “single family use?” How many of these variations already exist in PR2?

Next week a judge will hear the case and decide whether City House can continue their great work with homeless youths, and create transitional families in PR2.

(link to CBS-local coverage of Frisco HOA dispute with City House)


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Ward Lucas is a longtime investigative journalist and television news anchor. He has won more than 70 national and regional awards for Excellence in Journalism, Creative Writing and community involvement. His new book, "Neighbors At War: the Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association," is now available for purchase. In it, he discusses the American homeowners association movement, from its racist origins, to its transformation into a lucrative money machine for the nation's legal industry. From scams to outright violence to foreclosures and neighborhood collapses across the country, the reader will find this book enormously compelling and a necessary read for every homeowner. Knowledge is self-defense. No homeowner contemplating life in an HOA should neglect reading this book. No HOA board officer should overlook this examination of the pitfalls in HOA management. And no lawyer representing either side in an HOA dispute should gloss over what homeowners are saying or believing about the lawsuit industry.

6 thoughts on “Texas Judge to Decide Meaning of ‘Family’ in HOA

  1. Nila Ridings

    As long as there are no major problems (drugs, violence, abuse, theft, or illegal activities) there should be no restriction on who can live with who.

    I had an attached neighbor who was divorced. She has her son and his teenage children and one of them had a baby living with her. Then came the the daughter and her husband and their children. There was also another relative living with all of them. All total it was something like 17 people over there. I never heard one word out of them. I did hear the washing machine run non-stop. Which means the showers, toilets, and dishwasher was being used a lot, too. Granted her monthly dues were probably covering just her water bill. But they were all family and that was legal. She was a very nice lady and I miss her. She wanted out of this HOA so badly she sold at a terrible loss and moved out of state with another son. To say I am happy for her is an understatement.

    The neighbors in the cul-de-sac complained because all the parking spaces for guests were taken by her family. And her family members had big dogs (labs and Bull Mastiffs) that barked all the time when they were outside in her patio area so that was annoying.

    Overall, which is better? Family of 17 all blood related with cars and dogs? Or 5 or 6 people learning life skills and independence together with cars and probably no dogs?

    Truthfully, there is no difference because they are all human beings and even the four-legged animals were considered family.

    We should not discourage those who try to better our society by helping others, adopting or fostering children, and giving them a loving home. I will stop at the animal rescues inside of an HOA because there just isn’t enough space between the units for the barking not to be annoying to all of the neighbors.

    I hope this judge will make a ruling with common sense.

    1. Deborah Goonan

      Just to clarify, according to City House’s website, these youths do not have a criminal record nor a history of illegal substance abuse. They are young people who do not or cannot live at home for various reasons: terminal illness or death of a parent, domestic abuse in the home, or devastating financial setbacks in the family, for example. http://www.cityhouse.org

  2. Nila Ridings

    Thank you, Deborah. All the more reason why a blood connection should have nothing to do with who lives with who.

    Again, I hope the judge will use common sense not genetic connections to make the decision.

  3. Dave Russell

    I’m glad this case isn’t here in Arizona, there would be no way City House could ever win. Our Kookie Arizona Legislature passed a bill several years ago about “selective enforcement.” It sounded so wonderful, a bill that protected homeowners.

    As this legislation was proposed, by the CAI, that tells you right there, it’s evil. What the law basically says is, an association can not selectively enforce any rule. There are NO EXCEPTIONS, if you deviate from any rule that favors another homeowner, you are no longer able to enforce that rule forever.

    Let’s say this case was here in Arizona, the HOA would of course use this defense: “Judge, we can’t allow this, if we do, we have lost our right to enforce this rule/restriction forever. What this means is, that any homeowner can have a half way houses, drug treatment facility or a daycare center.”

    Here we go again, legislation that promises homeowners protection, but fails to do so. Any law that gives HOAs and managers no leeway, is a bad law, no matter how good the CAI claims it is.

    1. Deborah Goonan

      I think that is the general HOA argument in Frisco as well – they want to enforce their rule no matter what. But the breakdown is the vague definition of “single family use” in the governing documents. What does that mean? For most people, “single-family” defines a type of dwelling with the purpose of serving as housing versus a location for commercial or business enterprise, not the nature of the people who dwell in it. The dwelling owned by City House is to be used as housing. City House does not run business operations in their transitional living homes. Counseling and education services are provided at a separate facility nearby. In fact, the youths that participate in transitional living are required to keep all of their appointments at this facility as a condition of continuing in the transitional living program. (You can read all of this on the City House website)

      So City House argues that they are not asking for any exceptions, and that their use of the home fits the definition of single-family use.

      The attorney for the HOA appears to be focusing on the fact that the people who would be living in the dwelling are not related family members. The argument is a bit unclear. Hopefully there will be a legal summary available following the hearing before the judge.

      I might add that it probably doesn’t help the HOA’s case that they allowed City House to purchase the home and then spend thousands of dollars renovating it before they objected to its use for housing homeless youth. Are you telling me that the management office had no idea who was purchasing this home? The country club has even held golf tournaments to benefit City House in the past.

  4. Pingback: PR2 HOA reaches confidential settlement w/City House of Frisco, TX - Neighbors at War!

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