In real estate, we have gotten used to words such as “green” and sustainable.” It is easy to find a flood of information regarding making your buildings better for the environment and future owners or tenants. Additionally, you can see examples of Andres Duany’s founded Smartcode that allows towns and individual developments that are designed on a human scale rather than simply for maximum speed of vehicles. Since its conception in the early 1980’s in Seaside Florida, the idea has been replicated many times across the nation.
We have covered making better homes, offices, and building codes but a recent article in Urban Land has me thinking about what developers can do on the front-in of the development to insure sustainable building. (HOA Covenants for Sustainability) suggest that developers and their attorneys can write HOA covenants in a way that support sustainable growth.
Most new developments use HOA covenants to enforce details on how big your house has to be, what type of shingles you must use, where your cars need to be parked, what mailbox to buy, and even what garbage cans allowed. They even go as far to tell you what you can and cannot do in your home. These covenants are written before the first resident moves in and will cast the vision and expectations of the development moving forward. The article simple suggest casting a better vision.
The author suggests that these same documents can be used to promote sustainable living in using a two-step approach. The first step is in drafting the covenants to reflect sustainable activities. Seth Weissman suggest “When covenants specifically permit things like vegetable gardens, rain barrels, solar panels, cisterns, compost piles, and architectural changes that promote more sustainable living, a different set of values is articulated. These things become legitimized. Sustainability is then being accorded the same value in covenants as the preservation of order and the consistency of community appearance.”
The second step in this process is use these covenants to promote this new set of values. Many believe price premiums will be placed on developments where the above examples are present. Developers can use their input in effort to promote sustainable living prior to the first lot being sold. Well-drafted covenants are a great first step in this direction.