Recently, Colorado House Bill 21-1229 adopted, increasing protections for homeowners within HOA-guided communities. The bill prevents homeowners associations (HOAs) from banning xeriscape, non-vegetal sod, and renewable energy production devices (like solar panels).
The thirsty cityscape
Professor Austin Troy, director of department director of the Presidential Initiative on Urban and place-based research at CU Denver College of Architecture and Planning, think the bill is a step in the right direction. “HOA rules requiring sod or banning xeriscape don’t make sense in this climate zone,” he said. In “The Thirsty Urban Landscape,” a study presented at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning 2017 conference, Troy and other researchers analyzed patterns of water use in Denver. “Our results show that homes that are part of an HOA use an average of 10,493 gallons more than those that are not part of an HOA,” the newspaper said.
These findings highlight previous research showing that “HOAs have the potential to facilitate increased or reduced water use, to be an aid or a barrier to water conservation efforts,” according to Troy. Associate Professor Jody beck, who teaches in the Landscape architecture Department, also points out that HOAs in Denver must consider water consumption. “Vast green lawns are hardly ever an appropriate expression of responsible citizenship in the arid West, if by responsible citizenship we mean the conscientious use of limited shared resources,” he said.
Lawns reflect community standards
Beck, who studies the political nature of landscapes, discusses lawns in the social context of neighborhoods. “The aesthetics of the house and the lawn facing the public have long been to signal agreement with the standards of a community,” he said. “The HOA rules that enforce conformity to a particular aesthetic are, ultimately, to enforce conformity to a particular vision of what it means to be a good citizen of that particular community.”
The bill also prevents HOAs from imposing “unreasonable restrictions on renewable energy generation devices,” including solar panels. Aesthetic objections to solar panels will no longer be a legal right for HOAs. “Banning solar panels seems anachronistic to me,” Troy said. Beck put this section of the bill in an environmental context: “The increasing use of solar panels to meet the energy needs of our society is an appropriate response as we face the increasingly significant impacts of climate change. largely due to the use of fossil fuels.
Landowners with units in the governance of HOAs in Denver and throughout Colorado now have more rights to increase water conservation and generate clean energy. Beck summed up the implications of the bill: the aesthetics of the house and the yard.