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Are HOA’s Out of Touch?

Posted by JE Jones on Oct-4-2012

One of my reader’s comments about wanting to grow his own veggies made me think of a friend of mine who is in a battle with her Homeowner’s Association.My friend is a nutritionist and

I turned this flower bed into a veggie spot

grows almost all of her own food – or she knows where it comes from. She eats no meat and her grains and veggies are from well-researched sources. She turned her front yard into a veggie garden with lettuce, Swiss chard and spinach mixing with herbs.

Until recently her only complaint with the HOA is that they authorized pesticide and herbicide spraying of the grass in front of her house between the sidewalk and street. Every time they came by, she had to run out there and tell them to bypass her front yard because she had food growing there. Well, a couple of months ago, the HOA caught up with her unconventional front yard. They told her a front yard had to be 90% grass and 10% “other plants.” They gave her so many weeks to transform it back to the conventional look. Because of this, she is going to sell her house and look for something without an HOA.

My husband and I recently went to a Self-Reliance Expo and the organizers said everyone should take out their lawn and plant a vegetable garden. Growing your own food is one of the basics of preparedness and self-reliance. Sometimes, though, this idea can be tough if you have a Homeowner’s Association to contend with.

My daughter got her degree in architecture and as part of the degree, she took sustainability classes. She learned that while many people are pushing for a re-definition of what a front yard “should” look like, it is an uphill battle with neighbors and developers who want what they are used to – grass and a couple trees and maybe a few shrubs.

My kitten wins the battle with the kitchen towel.

Here in Texas, the grass all turns brown in the summer because of the intense heat. The summer before last, grass and trees just died in many yards because we got no rain. If we were able to dispense with a grass yard, which takes lots of water to keep alive, there are dozens of native Texas plants which thrive in that heat with very little water. When water is such a valuable resource and is expensive to boot, to me it makes sense to plant the Texas native plants. Texas SmartScape.com offers literally dozens of choices for landscaping with native plants.

We don’t have an HOA in our neighborhood but I think the neighbors would protest if we removed our grass and went native. Rather than fight that battle, we keep our gardening efforts to our back yard. Lucky for us, we have a fairly sizable back yard.Yesterday, in fact, I turned a flower bed in the back yard into a vegetable patch which is pictured at the top right. The rocks and pieces of wood are in there for now to keep our cats out. Once the plants get bigger, I can remove those.

Whenever we have looked for a new home, we have avoided the ones with an HOA. These organizations have their uses I’m sure but who wants to check with a governing body before you can paint your house or fly the American flag? In fact, there are entire websites devoted to HOA Horror Stories.

In other news, I am having a very hard time keeping my kitten from stealing the dishtowel which usually hangs on the oven door. He loves to make a flying leap at it, bring it down and roll around with it like he’s having a kitty fight. I keep replacing it out of habit but I need to learn to just put it on the counter until he grows out of it-lol

If you’re interested in Self-Reliance topics, check out Self-Reliance Expo.com and see if one of their events is coming to a town near you.

Do you live in a home governed by a Homeowner’s Association? What’s your opinion?

  1. Bob Lowry Said,

    We don’t live in an HOA, by choice, and have avoided them for the last 3 moves in the Phoenix area. This town in overrun with HOAs making housing options more difficult. When I move into a condo or town home in a development with a community pool and clubhouse and someone else doing all the outside maintenance I will accept an HOA. But, for now the enforced sterility and petty rules keep me far away.

    An HOA has some good points, but unfortunately too few limits on its power are in place. Living in a community that allows for no individuality and no deviation from what is considered “appropriate” leaves me cold.

  2. Don Said,

    We specifically looked for our current home in and HOA neighborhood. I would not consider buying a home WITHOUT an HOA. My opinion is, if one wants to do anything to ones home that could lower the values of the surrounding homes, then a good HOA can help avoid that. And believe me there are plenty of things that some people will do like that. Even unusual paint colors can have a negative effect on other homes. Just try to get top dollar for a tasteful home with a house painted orange or “swimming pool blue” next door. Or what about parking a commercial van with ladders on it right next to your yard every day? If I am a potential buyer, I’m definitely going to drive by several times and if I see that sort of thing, I’m not going to buy the house next door no matter how nice it is. I’m perfectly willing to give up some “freedoms” in order to keep the homes in the neighborhood looking good and values high.

  3. Scott Said,

    We have lived in three houses (different states) with HOAs. The first two HOAs were not radical enough for us to not consider our third house with the HOA. However, the third HOA is quite off the charts radical. We call them the gestapo. Once we received a letter from them telling us we had to lower our mailbox (about one inch). I checked with the US Post Office on this and they had no problem with our mailbox, but the HOA did. Penalty for not complying included a lien against our property. Someone actually measured every mailbox in the subdivision (~600 houses), This is crazy. Last HOA for us once we move.

  4. JE Jones Said,

    Hi Don, Thanks so much for providing us with another side of the coin. I can see your point, provided the HOA doesn’t get too radical, as in Scott’s case. In our neighborhood, sometimes we’ve wished for someone to tell a neighbor 2 houses down that he needs to remove the dead tree and water his dead lawn! Most in our neighborhood do very well with their landscaping but a few don’t. Our next door neighbor painted her trim a brilliant green a couple years back too, which looked odd. Luckily her daughter bought the house and changed the color first thing.

  5. JE Jones Said,

    Thanks for your story, Scott. These knitpicky things from HOA’s are the reason I wouldn’t want one. If you can find out ahead of time if they are radical or not, it would be much easier to live with.

  6. JE Jones Said,

    Thanks for your comment, Bob. I agree that if you had amenities to maintain, an HOA might be worthwhile, but not otherwise. I watch HGTV Househunters and sometimes people pay hundreds of dollars a month for this type of thing and they don’t even bat an eye!

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