Can we rely on HOA trade group’s statistics?

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


Earlier this week some colleagues and I were discussing the number of Association Governed Developments exist in the U.S., and state by state.

The U.S. Census does not track population or housing units according to the presence of some sort of mandatory association. And most states do not require homeowners, condominium, cooperative, or other types of “community associations” to register.

But Community Associations Institute (CAI), a trade group representing management companies and other service providers, compiles statistics annually. The organization, through its offshoot research foundation, issues an annual report called the “Fact Book,” including a summary for the U.S. plus separate summaries for each of the states.

CAI presents itself as the singular authority on such matters.

But how reliable are CAI’s statistical reports? Of course, the numbers are estimated, but are they meaningful estimates? Do the statistics make sense and do all reports and publications report those numbers consistently?

Let’s find out.

As an example, I’ll use my home state of Pennsylvania. Take a look at the three screen shots and source links to various CAI publications with regard to the number of associations and residents living in associations. Then draw your own conclusions.


PA statistics reported by CAI for 2014

CAI State by State summary stats 2014
Source: CAI Research Foundation, Fact Book 2014

According to the statistical summary, in 2014 Pennsylvania had 6,000 associations with an estimated 1.1 million residents.


CAI PA facts 2014
Source: CAI Research Foundation Fact Book -Pennsylvania

But in the State Fact Book for PA in the same year (2014), there were 6,625 associations with 1.32 million residents. (See page 11) That’s a difference of 220,000 residents, or 22% higher than reported in the 2014 statistical summary. And the Fact Book summary and state reports were released at the same time.

In July 2014, the Census estimate population of Pennsylvania was 12,787,209.

Doing some quick math, that would mean that in 2014, about 10.3% of the Keystone State’s population lived in some sort of mandatory association.


PA statistics reported for 2015

Now let’s look at 2015 estimates, according to the Pennsylvania and Delaware Valley Chapter of CAI. This is a slide from a recent “educational” presentation.


So, according to CAI, in one year, the number of associations in Pennsylvania increased from 6,000 to between 10,000-12,000. That would represent a 40-50% increase in Association Governed developments in just one year.

Are we supposed to believe that thousands of communities that were not Association Governed in 2014 were made subject to a mandatory association? Or that new construction was that robust?

Does that seem likely?

Or did local governments approve thousands of yet-to-be-built subdivisions?

If that’s the case, then how does CAI explain the sharp increase in percentage of population that lives in Association Governed housing?

For the year 2015, CAI estimates that 3 million Pennsylvanians live in a community subject to some sort of mandatory association. Are we supposed to believe that a whopping 1.68 million people moved into a homeowners or condominium association in just one year?

According to a Census report, the population in Pennsylvania barely changed from 2014 to 2015, with July 2015 population estimated at 12,802,503. So it’s not as though there was a sudden influx of new state residents.

Assuming that in 2015, 3 million people in Pennsylvania reside under the rule of a homeowners or condo association, that would represent 23.4% of the state’s population – a whopping 127% increase in just one year.

I’m not buying it. Are you?

Calls to mind a famous quote from Mark Twain: “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”






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