By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
It didn’t take long for the writers at Saturday Night Live to create the following tongue-in-cheek skit, entitled The Bubble, poking fun at Progressive Democrats in the #NotMyPresident crowd. (One week after SNL’s “Hallelujah” tribute to Clinton.)
If you missed it, here’s the 2:20 minute clip.
Did you notice that the SNL cast appears to be making a commercial pitch for their own Progressive master planned community – essentially a homeowners association on steroids?
The reason brilliant comedy like this works so well: there’s more than a grain of truth in it.
The Great HOA Bubble – is it about to burst?
For more than 5 decades in the U.S., the real estate industry – enabled by government at the local, state, and federal levels – has gone crazy constructing HOA “bubble” neighborhoods, more than 330,000 of them, according to industry estimates.
Like The Bubble depicted in the SNL skit, most common interest, Association-Governed Communities have been created for “like-minded” people and “no one else.”
Oh, and those “like-minded” people might be predominantly Conservative or Liberal, depending on he community. This is a bipartisan phenomenon.
Yep, many planned communities are enclosed by gates and walls. Urban condominiums have secure entry with guards stationed at the doors. And, of course, surveillance cameras keep track of who comes and goes.
But if physical barriers won’t keep the “undesirables” out, HOAs have other methods of excluding anyone who doesn’t think or behave as expected. The process of exclusion often begins with enforcement of restrictive covenants (CC&Rs) – that written set of rules deemed by law to create a contract between an individual owner or resident and the corporate association. The HOA industry won’t admit this dirty little secret: selective enforcement often results in discrimination by CC&R. Rule enforcement can be used as an effective tool to drive out the free-spirited non-conformist, the “disgruntled” homeowner, the “troublemaker” who questions status quo, that “crazy” independent thinker.
And so the HOA “bubble” is preserved. Or is it?
It makes me wonder. Perhaps 50+ years of sorting and separating groups of people into privately governed neighborhoods has, in essence, created the vast social and political divide we see today in our great country.
Think about it. The vast majority of Association Governed housing exists in dense urban zones and surrounding sprawling suburbs. But, nationwide, most Americans still live in small towns or rural locations outside those artificial “bubbles” of urban group think.
Furthermore, many of those living outside of an association-governed community are having no part of the “Bubble,” if they can help it.
And what about all those city dwellers who lost their homes to foreclosure, gentrification, and urban redevelopment in the past decade? They are less than enthused about “buying in” to homeownership, much less another homeowners or condo association.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that the political pendulum has just swung in the opposite direction.
What’s in the future for housing?
What does the future of housing look like? Read this article (Future of neighborhoods: Five projects that show how we’ll live – source: Fast Company Magazine) for a sample of some experimental community planning, led by an elite group of developers and architects.
A closed-loop, self sustaining community of 200 homes (Amsterdam). A tiny home village here and there, perhaps leasing space to someone in your own back yard. Or maybe some agrihoods – common interest developments (HOAs) built around a working community farm – where a non-profit owns land and leases it to private farmers. Even floating homes made out of shipping containers, docked in once-abandoned seaports.
More artificially-created planned “Bubble” enclaves?
One thing all of these housing alternatives have in common – little to no private ownership of land, and a stark separation between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” And a vision for the future ensures that the “haves” will own and control the bulk of available land.
Everyone else will be a tenant or a serf, depending on your perspective.
If the future of housing progresses as Urbanists would prefer, it is likely to create even more social and political division in the US and the developed world.
How to overcome the Great Divide? Regardless of political party, Americans must respect differences of opinion, defend individual rights and freedoms, and avoid buying into the (HOA) protective Bubble mentality.