How do Homeowners Associations regulate residential landscapes? An analysis of rule structure and content in Maricopa County, Arizona.

Authors: V. Kelly Turner*, University of California Los Angeles
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Human-Environment Geography, Land Use
Keywords: Institutions, Urban Ecology, Land Management, Urban Planning, Social-Ecological Systems
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Coolidge, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Residential landscapes have large implications for the ecology of cities, and decisions about yard structure and management practices are the result of a complex mix of actors and institutions operating at local to regional scales. This study examined how one such institution, the homeowners’ association (HOA), regulates yard ecology at the neighborhood scale through legally enforceable land covenants. We examined a random sample of covenants, codes and restrictions (CCRs) documents and a non-random sample of ancillary architecture and landscaping guidelines for HOAs in Maricopa County, Arizona to generate empirical data on the pervasiveness, content, and structure of landscaping rules. Additionally, we assessed the relationship between HOA and municipal rules with respect to water conservation, an environmental resource of primary interest in the arid Southwest. We found that landscaping rules in CCRs have increased over time, but are relatively small in number and generic in content. Rules about yard aesthetics or maintenance were required, while rules relating to environmentally sensitive landscaping were encouraged. Descriptive rules were contained in proprietary architecture and landscaping documents, but these clauses were also generic and tend to replicate municipal codes. These findings raise doubts that HOAs are promulgating unique landscaping rules and instead suggest that the legal documents are codified aggregations of multiple institutional rule sets at the neighborhood scale. Moreover, ecologically relevant rules were contained in proprietary documents and the issue of enforcement is unknown, obfuscating the role of HOAs in practice for both researchers and environmental managers.

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