Make your HOA dues count!

Make your HOA dues count!

As we march, rally and cajole our elected officials to address the issues of global warming and climate change, it is important that we include our homeowners associations (HOA) in the group of elected bodies who must be committed to this effort.  According to data by the Community Associations Institute, [1] there are more than 323,600 homeowners’ associations in the United States, resulting in jurisdiction over 63.4 million Americans.

HOAs have quasi-political powers over its residents.  In many cases, they represent “government among friends,” where rules and covenants are adopted and enforced regarding upkeep of facilities to ensure that these communities look good and function well.  The HOA is an excellent source to incorporate sustainability practices, but some serious nudging by residents is needed to accomplish this.  In fact, HOAs in the past have been notable for employing restrictive practices that are contrary to a green lifestyle, all in the name of aesthetics.  Some of these practices include the prohibition of outside organic gardens that feature edible flowers and fruit, banning the use of outdoor clothes-drying and prohibiting the use of solar panels.

The first step to engage the HOA in going green is to get involved in the election of officers to the board of directors.  Often the individuals who serve on these boards are cajoled by the current officers to simply be a warm body to fill a vacant seat or they are individuals who join the board to fulfill a specific agenda– approval for a new playground or installation of speed bumps are immediate examples that come to mind.  Imagine the impact that a board of directors who are committed to climate change,  living green and sustainability would have on the community.  In addition to working to have a beautiful neighborhood, the community could adopt a plan for eco-landscaping, [2] which promotes a healthy environment with the selection of flowers and deciduous trees that save the soil, require fewer pesticides and herbicides and need less water to survive.

Those “green voices” on the board of directors of the HOA also encourage discussion on green technology.  The board could then make informed recommendations regarding sustainable products, and they may be able to get group discounts for some items.  This alone will spike residents’ interests in programmable thermostats, hot tub timers, CFL bulbs, motion sensors and green appliances.  Also, those “green voices” on the board could rally the residents to force the HOA officers to review restrictive covenants and remove the provisions that thwart sustainability, such as the prohibition of the use of solar panels.

The point to be made here is that the HOA should represent the community.  After all, the residents pay dues to live in these neighborhoods, and they should have a voice in the management of their developments.  The residents have the right to property management companies which truly look out for their interests, and the companies selected to do this should be versed in green living and capable of directing the board on instituting policies and procedures which help the developments they serve to be healthy communities in addition to being clean and beautiful.[3]

As we approach the season for HOA annual meetings and elections, we here at LGBG hope that each of you who live in communities served by homeowners associations use this opportunity to elect officials who will truly represent you and promote your agenda to live green, be green.

Sources for this article:

1.  http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/kbenfield/coercion_by_contract_how_homeo.html.
2.  http://www.sustland.umn.edu/maint/trees.html.
3.  http://melrosemanagement.com/news.cfm/mode/details/id/6302/tips-for-going-green-with-your-hoa.

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