HomeownershipNationalStacy M. Brown

The HOA Conundrum Continues for People of Color

Homeownership proved an excellent idea for many of the 70-plus families who bought into the tempting advertisement which follows.

“Imagine owning your own brand new, single-family home on a spacious half-acre homesite with a private backyard! Being more affordable than a townhome, you will quickly see just why so many have chosen to call The Point at Layton’s Lake home.”

Tucked away just a few miles from the Delaware Memorial Bridge in Carneys Point, N.J., is the enclave called “The Point at Layton’s Lake.”

The area’s one claim to fame? Actor Bruce Willis grew up blocks away – a gaggle of his photos adorn the walls of a local eatery called Roman Pantry.

Nearby warehouses, doctor’s offices and a county hospital offer most of the nearby job opportunities.

Still, Carneys Point suffers as a food desert. Those who prefer fresh vegetables, reasonably priced fruits and healthy meals must head south across the bridge into Delaware (where a hefty toll awaits) or travel north several miles to Greenwich Township or beyond.

It’s little wonder the marketing of The Point appears to have focused on African Americans.

It’s also easy to understand the ease with which homeowners associations tack on quarterly fees that leave residents often wondering, “just where does the money go?”

“All fees for the Layton’s Lake HOA are currently in escrow and we plan to work with our CPA to send everyone a statement, so you’ll understand where the fees have been applied to date,” Akilah Linder, a member of the Layton’s Lake HOA board, insisted in an email.

The message only served to underscore residents’ concerns about the three-year-old development where it’s estimated that people of color account for nearly 90 percent of homeowners.

“They’ve never told us where our money is going,” said one resident who chose not to share their name. “They say they have tree planting and maintenance but no one asked for trees, they don’t do any landscaping and we all have to take care of our own lawns and snow removal.”

Another resident called the HOA fees “a rip off.”

“Black people can’t catch a break,” the frustrated homeowner exclaimed. “They saw us coming and you know they’ve got other Black people to do their bidding for them to oppress us.”

Layton’s Lake residents aren’t alone in their frustration with their HOA.

In an August 2020 post by writer Jennifer Povey titled “The Racist History of Your Homeowner’s Association,” the author lists many HOA horror stories.

The dirty deeds include pet bans, sign size limits, fights over flags and “in some cases, truly stupid rules.”

The rules include specific colors for swing sets and garage doors, requirements for blinds rather than curtains and parking all vehicles in garages regardless of size.

In July 2019, a woman in Florida read through the covenants for the home she considered buying, Povey recalled in her post.

“Perhaps nobody had read them recently because the documents, written in the 1930s, still said only ‘Caucasians’ could live in the neighborhood,” she wrote. “HOAs really came into their own in the 1950s and 1960s . . . and redlining was the rule, not the exception.”

She said covenants would commonly exclude three groups of people: Jews, Blacks and Asians. In 1948, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled such covenants violated the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

“Which means people needed to come up with other ways to keep out the undesirables,” Povey said. “They wanted to make sure their neighborhood only contained the right (or rather white) kind of people.”

Covey argued that homeowners of color might find themselves fined or harassed for petty violations while worse ones by their white neighbors remain ignored.

According to homestratophere.com, there are over 351,000 HOAs across America representing about 40 million homeowners, or 53% of all homes in the U.S. The website determined that “while it’s not impossible to avoid an HOA, it’s definitely difficult depending on where you want to buy.”

According to Bankrate.com, the national average HOA fee for a single-family home is between $200 and $300. However, HOA fees vary widely depending on the property location and the amenities available to property owners, Bankrate.com reported.

For homeowners with a mortgage and who are part of some form of a community association, these fees often exceed monthly utility payments, accounting for nearly 17 percent of total housing costs, the Inspection Supported Network reported.

UrbanTurf reported that dues rose 32.4 percent between 2005 and 2015 across the nation which resulted in the median monthly dues changing from $250 to $331. During the same time period, the median monthly HOA dues in the D.C. area rose from $259 to $387, a 49.4 percent increase.

While costs have risen, UrbanTurf reported that the number of households in the D.C. area paying HOA dues has dropped by 1.2 percent over the past decade.

“I live in Columbia Heights and the biggest problem for me and my husband are our HOA fees,” Heather Keita said. “What do [our HOA dues] cover? We spoke with our friends who live in Forest Hills and they pay about half of what we pay. I work in retail, so I don’t really have a legal background to go up against our HOA but I feel it’s past time that someone did something about it.”

Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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One Comment

  1. Stacy Brown lives in this community so I’m not sure I understand how this article is objective. There are clearly strong feelings represented in this article, where’s the other side?

    I also don’t understand how you go about publishing Akilah Linder’s name but not the people who are complaining.

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