Tuesday, November 14, 2023
1:30 PM - 3:00 PM
Strange Bedfellows: Can Home Owners Associations and Environmentalists Learn to Love Each Other?
Session ID
A5 - Lightning: Residential Programs
Behavior - based Programs
Katy Janda Kathy Kuntz

Home Owner’s Associations (HOAs) are characterized by their vigilant attention to uniformity and social norms. Comedian and TV host John Oliver recently called them “glorified debt collectors with the power to upend your life.” Environmentalists, on the other hand, typically foster and practice behaviors that can conflict with HOA covenants, such as line-drying clothes outside, watering lawns sparingly in summer, and advocating for solar and/or light-colored roofs. HOAs are a steadily increasing trend in new housing, as well as a stalwart form of social organisation in existing housing. 29% of the US population lives in community associations, and 82% of all single-family homes sold in 2021 were located in one. This paper reviews these trends and considers the impacts of HOAs—as a form of group decision-making and hyper local governance--on efforts to combat climate change. It uses a “middle-out perspective” to view HOAs as not just a collection of individual homeowners, but a separate class of home ownership and group decision-making that could be directly addressed by energy programs and local policies. Many utility energy efficiency programs are directed towards homeowners, multi-family or businesses, rather than towards HOAs. Many local governments do not regulate HOAs because disputes within them are considered to be private matters. Using data from recent pilot research on HOAs in two states (Wisconsin and Minnesota), this paper suggests that decision-making and behavior research should be expanded to consider the potential positive and negative effects of HOAs on climate change behaviors and practices. In particular, when do HOA covenants trump local laws but not regional or national ones? Findings suggest that working with HOAs to adapt their covenants can create new opportunities to aggregate and implement higher levels of pro-environmental behavior. Developing tools and programs for HOAs and their contractors to make better choices, particularly about roofs and solar installations, will also help avoid carbon lock-in.

Supporting Document 1