Does your HOA, condo association discriminate?


By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities



The origins of early planned and private communities of the 20th century were rooted in principles of exclusive accommodations for the privileged class. When developers started mass producing housing for the middle class following World War II, neighborhoods became more segregated by race and social class, mainly because banks at the time instituted a practice called “redlining” limiting the ability of minority class individuals to obtain mortgages for home purchase.

Housing discrimination was supposed to end with enactment of Civil Rights amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the establishment of the Department of Housing and Urban Developement (HUD) to oversee enforcement of Fair Housing Laws, in the late 1960s and 1970s.

However, in 1973 Community Associations Institute (CAI) was founded, and the concept of association-governed common interest communities became popular with home buyers looking to escape city life for the suburbs and good school districts for families with children.

Many critics of HOAs, myself included, believe that, in the early days of privatized community development, the establishment of  planned communities governed by restrictive covenants tied to property deeds was simply a way to maintain segregation and legalize discrimination against the “riff-raff.”

(Others who have written about this concept include Ward Lucas, author of Neighbors at War!, and George K. Staropoli of Arizona, founder of Citizens for Constitutional Local Government.)

You see, one way to get around Fair Housing laws is to create an onerous set of property restrictions that make it inconvenient, expensive, and darn near impossible for certain working class households with limited incomes to buy into the HOA community.

For example, a once common restriction in many association governed communities prohibited drying laundry on the clothesline, a practice that conveyed an image of relative poverty and lower social status. Today the restriction is less common in HOAs, but still persists in condo associations where residents are restricted from drying their laundry on their private porches, decks, or balconies.

Of course, following changes in mortgage lending policies in recent decades, many of today’s association-governed communities somewhat more diverse, with residents representing different racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.

Unfortunately, discrimination is still alive and well in many association-governed common interest communities, where cultures and values clash in a political environment that is not necessarily expected to fully adhere to Constitutional principles.

It is not uncommon for homeowners, condominium, and cooperative associations to become hotbeds of conflict, with battle lines drawn between “us vs. them,” sometimes even using restrictions and rules as a covert way of discriminating against anyone they do not happen to like.

Below are several examples, to illustrate the point.

Keep in mind that association governed communities are now expected to address cases of discrimination, following  new policy enacted by HUD in 2016. (See HUD “Quid Pro Quo” rule clarifies HOA duty to stop discrimination among residents.)


Coarsegold homeowner association settles retaliation lawsuit. Here’s what they must pay.


A homeowners’ association must pay $177,750 to settle a retaliation lawsuit, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing announced Thursday.

Yosemite Lakes Owners’ Association of Coarsegold was accused of retaliating against a former employee, Amanda Childress, firing her for assisting the agency with an investigation.

Childress, who was a manager at the association, allegedly told her employer she was being subpoenaed to testify in another case. Association management, according to the complaint,, instructed Childress to testify in its favor but she promised only to tell the truth.

Read more here:


In this case, an Owners’ Association in California apparently expected their community manager to lie or withhold the truth from the state agency officials investigating a claim of discrimination. The agency’s investigation concluded the manager was fired in retaliation for not cooperating with the Association’s demands. 


Fishers man takes to Twitter after racially charged letter is left in family’s mailbox

John Tuohy , Published 6:55 p.m. ET July 6, 2017 | Updated 4:39 p.m. ET July 7, 2017

Indy Star

A black family who moved to Fishers two months ago said they were sent an anonymous, racially charged letter that suggested they move because their home made their subdivision look like a “ghetto.”

Chris Sullivan, 29, a hospital construction manager at Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie, said the typed, folded, single-page letter was slipped into the mailbox of his Britton Ridge home and discovered Wednesday. The author complained that Sullivan’s backyard grass was uncut.

“This is not the ghetto and your home looks trashy,” the letter read. “So what do you think people think about you and your family?

“If you can’t take care of your property than (sic) maybe you should think about moving into an apartment.”

The letter concluded “Thanks, from the neighborhood Britton Ridge association.”

Read more:


The offensive comments made by an anonymous letter mailed to a new resident of this Fishers, IN, HOA reveal a common anti-renter attitude in many association-governed communities. The faulty assumption of some homeowners is that tenants do not take care of their properties, are inconsiderate of their neighbors, and tend to use recreational amenities more frequently than owners, thereby making the community less enjoyable and less valuable. Homeownership rates are lower among non-white households, so, for some homeowners, a stance against renters may simply serve as a cover up for racial and ethnic discrimination. 


Ocean Pines Board rules it’s OK to have children at Yacht Club pool

Doug Ferrar , Published 11:19 a.m. ET July 10, 2017 | Updated 9:01 a.m. ET July 11, 2017

Delmarva Now

Ocean Pines approved allowing children to use the adults-only pool at the Yacht Club, officials announced Monday, causing a major uproar with some residents who felt a child-free pool was a selling point for them to come to the community in the first place more than 30 years ago.

The realization that banning families and children from the Yacht Club pool was against the law led to the changing of the rules, according to Cheryl Jacobs, an Association Board of Directors member.

“The Fair Housing Act precludes discrimination based on a number of categories, one of them being familial status, which means families,” Jacobs said. “Therefore we cannot discriminate against families by having an adults only pool.”

After consultation with legal counsel Sunday, the motion was passed in a closed session as introduced by acting General Manager Brett Hill.

Adult residents are not happy about it.

“It’s (expletive),” said Nancy Engelke, a year-round resident.

“Most of us bought here many years ago because it was a private community at that time,” said E.M. Hench, another year-round resident. “At that time of course, since the 70s, this pool has been designated as an adult swimming pool, an oasis if you will, for senior citizens and for older people that need a break.

Read more:

In this yacht club, condo owners are angry that their association will not defy the Fair Housing Act by banishing children from their formerly “adult-only” swimming pool. The association is not legally age-restricted, and therefore, by law, cannot exclude children from the pool. Attorneys for the condo association are looking into the possibility of creating a pool schedule that blocks out specific time slots for adult-only use, but it appears that will not satisfy some condo owners. It is probably safe to conclude that this community is not a family-friendly environment – at least not at this particular swimming pool. 

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