The Right Coast

November 16, 2005
John Tieney on Homeowners Associations
By Mike Rappaport

The only New York Times' columnists that I regret not being able to read because of "the Wall" is John Tierney, both because Tierney is something of a thoughtful libertarian and because his views are new to me. But this Tierney column appears to be available on the Web. (Hat tip: Marginal Revolution) His balanced view on autonomy and homeowners associations seems right to me. He writes:

More than 50 million Americans are now ruled by these associations, which regulate things like the size of the house, the architectural style, the color and the landscaping. The rules have always sounded creepy to me, but after my town's fight, I'm starting to see why people buy into these communities — and why some economists suggest that traditional towns like ours be allowed to turn themselves into private homeowners associations.

The fury in our town was triggered by people's powerlessness to control what their neighborhood looks like. They couldn't shape the zoning rules, which are dictated at the county level, and they couldn't stop newcomers from cutting down trees or building homes that looked out of place.
We have a homeowners association where I live. It has rules like "don't park your cars in the driveway or on the street, but only in your garage." No one follows it (except us, of course, not out of respect for the rules but to protect our cars).