A community association is a popular lifestyle choice for many people, but it has been difficult to determine just how many — until now.
A new body of research, the "Community Association Fact Book," tallies the numbers of associations, housing units, residents and property values for the country and each state. It was published by the Community Association Research Foundation, the research arm of the trade group Community Associations Institute in Falls Church, Va.
Community associations are "a growing and increasingly vital segment of the U.S. housing market," said Dave Jennings, the foundation's executive director. "The more we know about associations, the more likely we are to see sound decisions that support the (people) who make their homes in these communities."
The fact book's 1,000-plus pages are organized into three parts. The first, "Statistical Review 2013," is an overview of national and state association data.The term "community association" refers to planned residential communities such as homeowner associations, condominiums and cooperatives. It does not include commercial associations like office or retail condominiums
According to the study, 24 percent of American homes are in an association. Nationally, the number of associations increased to 328,500 in 2013 from 10,000 in 1970, the first year the foundation began keeping track. During that time, the number of housing units grew to 26.3 million from 701,000, as did the number of unit inhabitants to 65.7 million from 2.1 million. They pay about $65 billion annually assessments.
As for state data, Illinois has 17,900 associations, the fourth-highest after Florida, California and Texas.
The states with the fewest associations, less than 1,000 each, are Alaska, Arkansas, Mississippi, North and South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming.
The second part, "Community Association Fact Book 2013," is more narrative than numeric. It delves into the history and configurations of various associations as well as the major issues and trends impacting them today. It includes sections on governance and best practices, how associations function in other countries and dozens of links for more information.
Lastly, the study includes "51 State Summaries," which lists housing and population data, and resources for information about legislation and regulations for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The fact book was compiled largely by Clifford Treese, president of Association Data Inc. in Pleasanton, Calif. He was previously president for both the national Community Associations Institute and the Community Association Research Foundation. He scoured census, housing, insurance and other public data. He consulted with government agencies, active CAI chapters and the few state ombudsmen in existence.
"Associations make tremendous contributions to our economy and to society,"Treese said. "The vast number of boards work very hard at preserving housing and offering services that do not have to be provided the locality and the government. This fact book allows me to tell our story."
Jennings said stakeholders such as homeowners, board members, managers, lawmakers, regulatory officials, developers and service providers will benefit from the study.
"This may be the most comprehensive compilation of information about community associations ever produced and far more extensive than anything we've done in the past," he said. "It's a tremendous resource for anyone who has an interest or a stake in the success of associations."
Julie Cramer serves on the board of trustees for the national Community Associations Institute and lives in a Westmont association. She said the fact book will give legislators and municipalities a clearer picture as to the vast number of associations and residents.
"They don't always understand how many people are affected by their legislation," she said. "It's a big percentage of the housing market, but you can't always tell by looking at a home that it is in an association."
The Community Association Fact Book is free at cairf.org.