When we built our house in this neighbourhood, we liked the idea of the HOA. Yes, I am a libertarian–but contrary to the general assumption about such animals, many of us do believe in a very limited form of government. Under the classical notion of Gentlemen’s Agreement, a government can be a handy tool for accomplishing things in a group. I saw the HOA as that type of a thing. We all agreed that we didn’t want anyone living here to have their grass unmowed or leaving junker cars on the lawn. It seemed like a good way to ensure basic neighbourliness and stable property values.
But as with any other form of government, it seems the HOA is easily corrupted from Gentlemen’s Agreement to Despotic Tyranny. Some folks just fall in love with the idea that Laws Can Be Made To Control An Uncontrollable Universe. If you don’t like the way things work, just make a new law and bully those around you into doing things the way you want them done. There are two surefire appeals to ramming these new laws through–protecting The Children or The Bottom Line.
The paper shoved in my door on Saturday seemed to guarantee both things. Unsavoury folks won’t move here to taunt my children and my property values will climb sky high almost instantly. All we have to do is vote to enact a new HOA regulation. No homes in the Hampton Hall neighbourhood can be occupied by renters. If you buy here, you have to live here.
When I called the guy behind this new scheme to ask if it was legal, the childlike glee in his voice was scary. “Yes! We checked it out. It’ll be great. So far the response has been FANTASTIC! I mean, I know my property values have gone up, but not as much as they should.” He then went on to preach the gospel of owner-occupied housing by holding up the next neighbourhood over. It’s a couple of decades older and the folks are a couple of shades darker. The homes are a couple of notches lower on the property ladder and most of those darker folks who live there are renters.
No one ever talks openly about the race issue, but coincidentally or not the few homes we have in our neighbourhood that are rental properties are also usually rented by Chinese, Hispanic and Black people. In a couple of those cases the homes are also poorly maintained. I served on the HOA board a couple of years back and the rental properties were the bane of our existence. Folks didn’t mow as often as they should and left piles of trash on their front porch. I myself didn’t mind the colour of the people’s skin–but others did. A couple of meetings before I quit, another board member frustratedly swore that the neighbourhood would be much better “without all the n—ers.”
He actually said that. He actually THINKS that. Never mind that there are Asian, Black and Hispanic owners and rental houses occupied by white tenants. Never mind that there are white owners who don’t mow their lawns and leave their trash receptacles out front. I don’t think that particular guy lives here any more, because I believe his white ass lost his house in a divorce. But it seems his attitude does still live here.
It’s an attitude that feels perfectly justified in telling other people what to do with property they own. It’s an attitude that hides racism, that glorifies classism, that is genteel in its barbarism. It’s a greedy and disgusting attitude that is not satisfied with a seven percent per year increase in property values.
It’s petty and small. And it has to be stopped.