The Mansion Wars

John Tierney had an excellent column on "mansionization" in yesterday’s NYTimes (I am cited).  Unfortunately, it’s behind the great wall (which I predict will be down within 6 months) but here are some key grafs:   

In the town where I live, a once placid Washington suburb, the mayor has just sent out a letter asking the natives to stop throwing eggs at each other’s homes.  Such is life on the front lines of the anti-mansionization war….

My first impulse was to side with the mansionizers [because]…of my knee jerk libertarian reaction to the moralizers…Who were they to control other people’s property?…But when I talked to housing experts, they pointed to another message from the market… A majority of new homes in rapidly growing urban areas are in communities governed by private homeowners assocations that impose much stricter rules than governments do.

Some people chafe at the restrictions [but] Amanda Agan and Alexander Tabarrok…found that a home in the Virginia suburbs of Washington that was part of a private community typically sold for 5 percent more than a similar home nearby not governed by a homeowners association…

[M]ost people apparently want aesthetics to be regulated – not by politicians at the city or county level, but by homeowners in the neighborhood.  That’s why the developers of private communities write constitutions that give so much power to the homeowners associations…Those founding fathers learned by trial and error that empowering local busybodies is the best way to maximize home values and minimize strife.

Aesthetic and other rights held by homeowner assocations and condominiums are a relatively new but rapidly growing type of property, the private but collective property right.  Figuring out the best form for these rights will be an evolutionary process but one that is greatly aided by the fact that developers and homeowners have the same incentives – to make the home as valuable as possible.

Addendum: Art Woolf points me to the Rutland Herald which has Tierney’s column in full.


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