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Bonanza Village one of first communities in Las Vegas to start an HOA

When large-scale planned communities began to take shape in the late 1940s, simple covenants were the law of the land. Homeowners associations sprang up later as a way to enforce those covenants, but they didn’t gain mass acceptance until the ’80s and ’90s.

There were about 10,000 community or homeowners associations nationwide in 1970, and that number has increased to 260,000 since, according to the Community Associations Institute.

There are an estimated 3,000 homeowners associations in the Las Vegas Valley, incorporating about 1.2 million people.

HOAs exploded in popularity over the last several decades for three reasons, according to Evan McKenzie, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. McKenzie published a housing study in 2005 about the emerging trends in American gated communities, and specifically in Las Vegas, as it was the fastest-growing area in the country.

The first reason is that “developers pursue high density in order to maintain profits despite rising land costs,” McKenzie wrote.

Privately governed common interest housing developments allow for more people on less land and create common ownership of public areas.

One of the first such communities in the valley was Bonanza Village, near d owntown.

Built in 1946, it was a 168-lot development of single-family homes that were sold with whites-only race-restrictive covenants, as was common at the time in emerging communities nationwide, such as Levittown, N.Y. , the country’s first master-planned suburb.

The early covenants, conditions and restrictions, or CC&Rs, in Bonanza Village also had guidelines regarding servants’ quarters, stables, crop growing and even the number of animals permitted on the property — up to 12 chickens, six rabbits and a “reasonable” number of dogs, cats and horses.

There was, however, no homeowners association at the time to enforce these rules, and one was not formed until 1971.

The second reason for the increasing number of HOAs is that “local governments seek growth and increased tax revenues with minimal public expenditure,” McKenzie wrote.

These communities privatize what normally would be government responsibilities, such as maintaining streets and landscaping.

City governments nationwide have been supportive of the creation of this system because they collect property taxes from all homeowners in the city but are increasingly less involved with the upkeep of it, according to s tate Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas.

Nowadays, at least in Las Vegas, HOAs are law.

“The c ity of Las Vegas virtually mandates that new development be done with homeowner associations,” McKenzie wrote.

Zoning and development codes passed in 1997 require that all new housing within planned development zones contain certain features such as a landscaping plan, open spaces and security walls. If such features are included — which they must be — then there must be a homeowners association to maintain them, McKenzie said.

The city of Henderson, Clark County and the city of North Las Vegas soon copied this type of legislation, according to Monica Caruso of Southern Nevada Home B uilders.

“Government figured out, ‘Oh, wait, this is a good thing to do,’ ” Caruso said. “We’ll still get the tax revenues, but we don’t have to fix their streets and lights.”

Caruso also said racially targeted covenants such as those in Bonanza Village have existed since the 1800s.

The third reason is that “many middle- and upper-class home buyers, fearful of crime and disenchanted with government, are in search of a privatized utopia offering security, a homogenous population and managerial private government,” McKenzie wrote.

Former Las Vegas Review-Journal real estate editor Mike Henle said this was the huge selling point for home builders in the ’80s and ’90s when HOA growth exploded.

“The idea was to create this perfect neighborhood,” Henle said. “(Residents) were part of an HOA, and everybody thought it was the best thing since sliced bread.”

HOAs, while controversial, continue to thrive, and about 10,000 new community associations are formed each year.

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 224-5524.

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