Does the Homeowners’ Association indsutry care about sustainability?

By Deborah Goonan

For all its talk about “smart growth,” the HOA industry continues to churn out communities that are anything but sustainable. In Arizona, where water is scarce, local regulatory agencies continue to allow development of new communities on land supplied only by ground water (wells), not connected to public utilties. Not only is it expensive to provide enough good quality water to all residents, there is also concern that the water source will run dry faster than it can be replenished.  You can listen to a brief pod cast here: Water Worries Renew Questions About Future Of Growth In The Phoenix Area

California has been a hotbed for new state laws limiting water use in response to its historic severe drought conditions. Still, HOAs balk at the Governor’s attempts to prevent HOAs from fining owners who refrain from watering their lawns, or who choose to replace that lawn with artificial turf.

In rural central Pennsylvania, State College residents are hoping to thwart further development of student housing, over concerns about water runoff from the future community that could contaminate public wells that supply potable water to the town’s residents.

And then there are the HOA restrictions that insist upon lush, green, water-thirsty lanscapes. There are exceptions, of course, but it often seems that most HOA leaders are resistant to xeriscaping, the practice of using native plants and alternative ground covers that require very little water. Here’s an example from Texas, where the owner, a landscape contractor, is forced to tear out his xeriscape and lay down sod instead. 

What about solar panels? This seems to be another sticking point with HOAs, from Marin County, CA to St. Louis, MO, based soley on aesthetics.

Overall, the tendency is for local governments to look the other way, and allow developers and HOA Boards to find every excuse in the book to avoid being as sustainable as they claim to be.


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