People often ask me about the “issues” in my books. What item(s) relevant to today’s political/economic/social environment have I addressed? One of the biggest ones that I talk about or allude to is the “go green” movement. My heroine, Kenzie, winds up in a colony of people who can jump into pictures. This colony, affectionately referred to as Cop-out, is very self-sufficient. They grow a ton of their own food, but they also have wind-power and solar-power equipment.
How does that turn around to being an HOA issue? I think that alternative energy is a wonderful idea. (Next Monday, I’ll get deeper into more of my thoughts on that.) However, I think that one of the biggest things holding us back from using it more often is HOAs.
I’m sure that most HOAs were founded with the best of intentions, but they’ve become fairly ludicrous since then. My parents seriously contemplated getting solar panels on their roof. Their HOA wouldn’t allow it, because the solar panels “are not an approved color for roof-coverings in this neighborhood.” Say what? There’s a big push to “go green,” to get off our dependence on non-renewable resources, but we can’t use solar panels because it would make our roof the wrong color? What kind of backwards thinking is that?
Of course, my parents weren’t too surprised. They purchased a house that was built in the late 70s. The house had powder blue aluminum siding on it. “Dated” is the nicest way to describe how it looked. They saved up a little money, and then went to purchase new siding. Being fairly handy, Mom did most of the renovations herself. She tore down the blue siding and put up HardiePlank. Once it was up, she painted it white. WHITE. You know, the color that goes with everything.
She got a note from the HOA saying that she had to stop doing the renovations, because she hadn’t asked for permission to do the project. The HOA wanted to sent out a crew to make sure that the renovations she wanted to do weren’t going to make her house or the neighborhood look bad. She promptly threw the letter in the garbage and kept right on doing what she’d been doing. When she had used up all of the supplies she had purchased, she stopped. She wanted to save up more money before she went to buy the materials to replace the little bit of blue siding that was left. (She had missed a section that was about 14×6, but it was in the backyard.) She got a letter a few weeks later from the HOA saying that she had to replace the rest of the blue siding, because it made her house look bad and would negatively affect property values. She told me that she wanted to call them and say “First I wasn’t supposed to do the project at all, and now you’re requiring me to finish it? You pay for it, I’ll replace it.” I’m not sure if she ever made that call or not.
After that point, the HOA pretty much hated her. She got letters about her grass being too long. The house was in Southeast Texas, where it’s 100 degrees and rainy for months at a time. Grass grows obscenely quickly. She mowed it as often as she could. Once the HOA figured out that she was friends with her next door neighbor, they started picking on the neighbor, too. Up to and including sending the neighbor letters saying that she had to clean out her gutters or they’d pursue legal actions. Her house didn’t have any gutters.
Mom and Dad have sold that house. They’re in a new house now, and they’ve revisited the idea of getting solar panels. “We’re sorry, you can’t get solar panels on your roof. Solar panels are not made in a color that is approved for roofs in this neighborhood.”