In regulating residential landscaping and maintenance practices, homeowner associations (HOAs) in the Phoenix area are potentially important institutional actors in urban climate adaptation and water demand management. One view posits that HOAs will use outdoor landscaping and scarce water resources to maintain the aesthetic appearance and hence property values of homes in their domain. An alternative view from commons theory suggests that they will behave in a variety of ways and have diverse environmental resource management outcomes. This research compares water consumption in single-family residential communities with HOAs and without them and is limited to the City of Phoenix municipal boundaries.

Mapping the location and spatial extent of HOAs in the City of Phoenix was imperative to this research. Thousands of non-profit corporations are registered as HOAs in the City of Phoenix, but existing listings of HOAs are not spatially explicit. Further, available contact information usually refers to the location of off-site management companies that are often responsible for multiple HOAs in different residential subdivisions. This lack of spatial information has therefore prevented the analyses of HOA locations in relation to patterns of household water demand.

Generating a map of HOAs required linking legal documentation of HOA presence with the spatially-explicit dataset of all subdivisions in Maricopa County. Based on the subdivision dataset, all single-family residential subdivisions with Covenants, Codes, and Restrictions (CCRs) filed with the Maricopa County Recorders Office were coded as belonging to an HOA, while those without a CCR were coded as non-HOA in kind. All other types of subdivisions (e.g. commercial, industrial, mixed-use, schools, churches) were removed from the dataset.

The map allows quantification of the presence of HOA management in the City of Phoenix. Of the approximately 6,000 single-family residential subdivisions, some 27 percent (n=1642) are governed by HOAs. While HOAs comprise a minority of these subdivisions in number, they constitute a majority of residential land area. Single-family residential subdivisions consume approximately 37 percent of the total land area in the City of Phoenix, 64 percent of which is governed by HOAs.

By converting the map of HOAs to census block units, relationships between HOA presence, water demand, and other variables of interest can also be quantified. Findings reveal there is not a significant correlation between water consumption and HOAs, after accounting for other relevant variables. HOAs did not co-opt a disproportionate share of urban water use, lending credence to the claims of commons theory that similar institutional types have quite different resource outcomes, depending upon their geographical and social context.

Visualizing the location and spatial extent of HOAs is an important first step to understanding the influence of an emergent institutional actor relevant to environmental resource management. Empowered with this new visual data, scholars and decision-makers might utilize the maps to address the relevance of HOA management to a variety of social and environmental issues of interest to the City of Phoenix.

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