November 20 2013

Homeowners’ Associations: Friend or Foe of Aesthetic Diversity?

While in Almaty, Kazakhstan, I observed apartment-dwellers’ eclectic modifications to their balconies. As these extended from otherwise homogeneous Soviet-period apartments, I noted how this eccentricity contributed to the distinctive character of Almaty’s cityscape.

A Balcony in Almaty, KazakhstanA Balcony in Almaty, Kazakhstan















In the United States, condominium and home owners’ associations regulate owners’ modifications to their properties. Buyers will often pay more for properties subject to associations’ administration because through these regulations, these associations maintain standards of stylistic unity, routine maintenance, and cleanliness. My husband and I recently purchased a condominium, and we were pleased to learn that our owners’ association requires residents to remove window air conditioning units between the months of October and May. Our building is a 19th century brownstone, and the window units disrupt the unity of the building’s facade.

That said, buyers may choose to purchase a property in an urban neighborhood or in a suburban community because of that place’s idiosyncratic character. Young adults of the Millennial generation are poised to exert new influence on the housing market through their consumer tastes. Many of them were raised in developer-planned, suburban tract communities with zealous owners’ associations, derisively called “cookie-cutter” communities. As Millennials’ Boomer parents age, retire, and, in some instances, relocate to retirement communities or communities that are more walkable and offer more extensive amenities, the property tax base of “cookie-cutter” developments will decline if new buyers are not attracted to them.

Owners’ associations have perfected the maintenance of standards, but they should also learn to cultivate eclecticism in such a manner that owners’ modifications can be permitted to enliven the landscape without diminishing the aesthetic coherence. These associations have the authority, granted by owners, to create places – neighborhoods that are unique and that will be loved by their residents for their uniqueness as well as their aesthetic pleasantness, well-maintained character, and cleanliness.

What recommendations do you have for owners’ associations? What could these associations do to entice you to buy?

Credits: Images by Sunny Menozzi. Data linked to sources.

Sunny Menozzi

Sunny Menozzi's military duties have taken her to diverse and exciting places, from Singapore to Arizona, South Korea to Afghanistan, and North Carolina to Hawaii. Sunny's travels inspired her interest in cities, especially how they function, the impact of the built environment on the residents, the methods planners employ to shape natural features, and the vibrancy that can be cultivated by good planning and design. She will begin her pursuit of a master's degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall of 2013. Sunny plans to focus on reuse and historic preservation, community-building, and economic and environmental sustainability. She hopes to contribute to projects that repurpose military bases. An avid runner, Sunny is interested in the design of recreational trails and policies that encourage the development of walkable communities. She holds a B.S. in International Relations and Russian from the United States Military Academy at West Point.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 at 9:42 am and is filed under Architecture, Housing, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


One Response to “Homeowners’ Associations: Friend or Foe of Aesthetic Diversity?”

  1. John Says:

    As Millenials continue to move to cities where an HOA isn’t needed, hopefully we will begin to see their decline.

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