I first bought a home after graduate school in 1973, and it seems like I’ve lived under homeowner associations ever since. I was surprised when, as president of the Galveston Alliance of Island Neighborhoods, so many neighborhoods preferred to live under the new rules of short-term rentals rather than form an association with deed covenants that prohibited them.
I thought having an association might be a simple solution to limiting short-term rentals in a neighborhood. For those living in established neighborhoods, the thought of an owners association meant something akin to dying. My suggestion was rebuffed by everyone I talked with.
I bought a home in Pirates Cove in 1983, and have lived under the Pirates Property Association since then. It’s only been in the last 10 years I’ve awoken to what the traditional Galveston neighborhoods seem to have known. While such associations can be beneficial, they can be quite a bit of underhanded trouble and unilateral decision-makers.
Our association gave birth to the West Galveston Island Property Owners Association 20 years ago to work as a lobbying organization. While WGIPOA does do educational events for the island, I can’t think of a single matter on the West End that it has left untouched in the last 20 years.
It’s been active in legitimizing short-term rentals, which were well established at Pirates Beach long before they were legal, development, getting our beach classified as an engineered beach after the destruction of Hurricane Ike, and countless other schemes including limiting where cars could access the beach and driving the change to have the Ike Dike built with sand dunes at water’s edge. All of this — good and bad — originated from the Pirates Property Association.
Many in my neighborhood now react the same way traditional neighborhoods react when somebody says “HOA.” We pay for security in our bay-side neighborhood, but the association diverts the patrols to the beach-side during the summer. Our deed covenants say “no STRs” while the beach-side is full of them.
Since renters are mischief-makers, security we pay for goes to the beach-side. Our association finds deliberate and deceitful ways to submarine board elections. And financial decisions to spend substantive money has historically been left to one or two beach-side board members absent the required vote during open meetings.
When the seaweed cleaning permit was jerked from the West End two years ago, two associations had ignored the rules. When Spanish Grant endorsed Marquette Development against the wishes of many of its residents, it was because the association had unilaterally cut a deal trading endorsement for sand despite what the residents preferred, and when I’ve written about intentional blocking of disability access on Pirates Beach, it’s the association that refuses to allow American with Disabilities Act access, and has for many years.
The neighborhoods were right, and I couldn’t see it. Homeowner associations are toxic, and in many cases operate at whim instead of rule of law. Well, at least mine does.