By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
It’s Saturday afternoon, an unseasonably warm autumn day. The wind is starting to pick up in the northwest, with a cold front scheduled to arrive in a few hours. My neighbors are outside with their children, raking leaves. Watching half a dozen kids between ages of 2 and 10 run and jump into a big pile of leaves brings a smile to my face.
In the driveway across the street, two basketball hoops accommodate growing children of different heights. A few weeks ago, dozens of kids, dressed in their best costumes, enjoyed trick-or-treat for Halloween.
There’s no HOA in this neighborhood, and most of the homes have yards for running around.
But not all children and families choose to live in a small town or suburb in a detached home with a big yard. For one thing, in some parts of the country, the only homes available in their price range are townhouses or condos.
It’s important to remember that many families cannot afford to buy a home of any kind, so they rent instead.
Other families are willing to cope with smaller living spaces, in exchange for avoiding brutally long daily commutes to and from work. Or maybe they don’t want to spend hours raking leaves, mowing lawns, or shoveling snow. To them, time is more valuable than space – indoors or out.
But that means that some families end up living in Association Governed Common Interest Developments.
But, parents wonder: are their children welcome?
In quite a few HOAs, apparently not so much.
Not so family friendly
At Tuscany Preserve, a townhouse neighborhood in Poinciana, Florida, Fox 13 reports that parents have received a rather unfriendly letter from their HOA, with regard to their children playing outside. The letter states that some of the neighbors have complained that the children are playing in the street and making too much noise, therefore, the parents are expected to keep them quiet at all times.
Polk Co. HOA asks parents to keep kids quiet outside
POINCIANA (FOX 13) – Neighbors in Poinciana say they feel unfairly targeted by a letter asking parents to keep their children’s noise to a minimum while they play outside during the day.
The Tuscany Preserve homeowner’s association posted the letter on select homes inside the gated subdivision. The letter says complaints have come in saying the kids are “extremely noisy” and that “noise should be kept to a minimum” so that other neighbors can take naps during the day.
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And what about families that live in condos instead of single family homes? Well, parents in California recently received a “shaming” letter from an anonymous neighbor, accusing them of being too selfish to buy a detached home with a yard for their children. The family’s condo is close to the beach, however, and they don’t have a yard to maintain.
Have some judgmental neighbors? They might not seem so bad after reading this story.
Mike and Kelly Brüning, from San Diego, California, are feeling shell-shocked after receiving an anonymous letter from a neighbor shaming them for the size of their house, as reported by Daily Mail. According to San Diego’s KSWB, the couple, who have a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, have been living in their two-bedroom condo, not far from the beach, for almost nine years.
In the scathing letter, the neighbor called the parents out for being too “selfish” to get a big enough home with a yard for their kids. “Because you like the beach, your boys are trapped in a tiny, one bedroom upstairs apartment,” the message read. The rude neighbor then closed out the nasty letter by saying “SHAME ON YOU.”
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Poor urban planning
Part of the reason there’s so much conflict over where children play, and the inevitable noise, is that many common interest developments, especially townhouse and condominium neighborhoods, were not designed or built with families in mind.
The shared walls are thin. Floors vibrate with every footstep. There’s no green space for running around and using outdoor voices. Every inch of hard surface is used for parking or road access. Driveways and garages are small or nonexistent. If there is a playground for the kids, there’s no guarantee the association will maintain it well. And kids quickly outgrow the swing set, sliding board, and jungle gym. What are older youths supposed to do? Sit inside and play video games with earbuds, so that none of the neighbors will have to hear the sound effects?
It seems that planners and developers simply assumed that perfectly polite, neat freak, conforming adults would live in these so-called “communities,” not real people.
Are there family-friendly housing options?
Where are the small, affordable “starter” homes for families – detached bungalows, cape cods, and cottages set on modestly sized lots, near good schools and places of employment – without any HOA restrictions and assessments to pay? And I’m not just talking about 50-100 year old homes that require a small fortune to rehab and renovate. That supply is limited. Why aren’t there newer homes designed and built for real families? In too many housing markets, these kinds of homes simply do not exist.
And so parents are left to cope with cranky neighbors and HOA or condo boards over unreasonable restrictions and rules that don’t allow their kids to be kids.
Now that’s a shame.