The Racist History of your Homeowners’ Association

Jennifer R. Povey
4 min readAug 11, 2020
Photo by Breno Assis on Unsplash

If I’m ever lucky enough to be able to afford a house (work reasons have me stuck in a very high cost of living area), I have one rule:

No homeowners’ association. (Condos are a different matter; condos need some arrangement to pay for common areas). And yes, this does mean that it might be a challenge; there are 351,000 HOAs in the United States.

Most people have, or have heard, a plethora of HOA horror stories. This includes pet bans, sign size limits, fights over flags, and in some cases truly stupid rules. Here’s some ridiculous HOA rules I found:

  • Leave your garage door open all day to prove nobody’s living there. Meaning you can’t store stuff in your garage.
  • Specific rules for the color of swingsets and playhouses…that are in your back yard.
  • Requirements for blinds rather than curtains. Horizontal blinds. The ones dangerous to children and pets.
  • A rule to park all vehicles in garages, whether they fit or not.
  • No drying clothes in your backyard (note, in some states this is illegal).
  • No yard flamingoes.
  • Requiring lawns. In the desert.
  • No politics or religion. On your own property.

All of this is petty, but HOAs have a darker past.

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

Homeowners Associations and Keeping out the Riffraff

If you ask most people what the purpose of a HOA is, they’ll say “Keep up property values.”

They probably won’t even think about the implications of that. Of course, ugly house colors deflate everyone’s property values.

In July, 2019, a woman in Florida read through the covenants for the home she was considering buying. Perhaps nobody had read them recently, because the documents, written in the 1930s, still said that only “Caucasians” could live in the neighborhood.

HOAs really came into their own in the 1950s and 1960s…and redlining was the rule, not the exception. Covenants…

Jennifer R. Povey

I write about fantasy, science fiction and horror, LGBT issues, travel, and social issues.