Editor's note: This is the first of a new monthly column on HOA issues in Ahwatukee Foothills.
Here in Ahwatukee Foothills, most of us live within a homeowners association if our homes were built in the last 30 years. A community association is characterized by three things - mandatory membership, mutually binding governing documents and lien-based assessments - e.g. all owners must pay assessments to the association to maintain the common property and enforce the governing documents. It's estimated that in the 1970s there were approximately 700,000 homes in community associations; today the estimates exceed 23 million American homes.
I've lived in Ahwatukee for 25 years. My children were born and raised in the same housing development we still live in. I still frequent the same Safeway, Blockbuster and Nello's restaurant near my house since they opened. I can ride my bike to South Mountain for a quick morning hike. And I love that even in this difficult economy we have new restaurants like the Hillside Spot Café, Five Guys and Biscuits that choose to open businesses in Ahwatukee. In short, Ahwatukee is home, I'm vested in the community, and I'm here to stay.
Last spring I stepped forward and decided to run for the board of my HOA, the Ahwatukee Board of Management. I've never run for anything in my life, not even for seventh-grade treasurer. Yet I won. Now I am not only a vested homeowner, but an elected board member. Perspective changes things and I have a duty as a board member to help protect the interests of the association and enforce the CCR's. It's hard to believe that I didn't even know the full boundaries of the ABM before I ran for the office; but I'd never seen a map. Now we have a map in both our newsletter and on our website. The ABM is a sizeable enterprise that encompasses 5,100-plus homes, 110 acres of common areas, a 3.5-acre park and an RV park. And as HOAs go, the ABM is a mature organization that was incorporated in 1974, long before the area we know as Ahwatukee was annexed into the city of Phoenix.
Membership in an HOA is dictated by where you live. At times I've disagreed with my HOA, but I'm still glad I live in one. And part of having impact on your neighborhood means getting involved. I encourage others to attend a board meeting sometime. The bottom-line is we're all neighbors trying to live successfully within the same boundaries.
Katrina Shawver has lived in Ahwatukee Foothills for 25 years and now serves on the Ahwatukee Board of Management, an HOA of nearly 5,100 homes. She can be reached at email@example.com.