A year after Karen Erwin moved to the Silver Trail subdivision in Kuna, she and her neighbors wondered why their homeowners association dues doubled.
They tried asking the association’s property manager. They tried asking the development’s builder. They couldn’t quite figure out what was going on.
Answers have been hard to come by. CBH Homes built the development, and the company’s owner, Corey Barton, is the homeowners association’s president. Because of rules set in the subdivision’s covenants, conditions and restrictions, or CC&Rs, CBH Homes has 10 votes for every building lot it still owns, while homeowners get one vote for each building lot they own.
As a result, builders can maintain control of Idaho homeowners associations, or HOAs, well into the life of a subdivision if they still have more lots to build on. Silver Trail homeowners estimate that Barton can maintain control for several more years even as hundreds of homes are already occupied.
So far, five phases of Silver Trail have been built and a sixth is “coming soon,” according to CBH’s website. More will follow: Erwin said about 200 homes have been sold so far, but that’s fewer than half of the approximately 500 total that are expected. She expects 12 or 13 phases in all.
As homebuilding continues in the Treasure Valley in an effort to catch up with the housing shortage, new homeowners could be learning what Erwin and her neighbors learned.
“If CBH is in charge, I would like them to also have a few homeowners as a committee or an advisory board to give our input,” Erwin said, “and be transparent about the funds, where they’re going to, what we’re spending our funds on. If they’re in charge, then they need to at least have a few homeowners’ input.”
The CC&Rs for the Silver Trail subdivision were established in 2015. The North Kuna subdivision is east of South Ten Mile Road and south of West Columbia Road. Erwin moved in in 2020, when HOA annual dues were $240. They increased to $480 and were lowered to $390 after neighbors raised questions in recent months.
Star Property Management, the HOA’s property manager at the time, didn’t explain the costs, neighbors said. Jan Rose, who works for Star, declined an interview. A couple of months ago, the property manager changed from Star to MGM Association Management.
Builders creating homeowners associations is ‘customary’
CBH Homes declined the Idaho Statesman’s interview request.
Shannen Floyd, CBH’s director of property management, is the HOA’s director, according to the Secretary of State’s website.
“It is customary for community developers and homebuilders to maintain operations of a homeowner’s association throughout the full development and warranty period of a neighborhood,” Floyd said in an emailed statement. “This management function is in place to ensure homeowners have a direct line to the builder, operational best practices for ongoing HOA management can be established, and the neighborhood master plan as advertised is delivered. CBH Homes employs this option in our communities to sustain our reputation of delivering turn-key, comprehensive, family-friendly communities.”
Hubble Homes, another homebuilding company, has created similar homeowners associations. Hubble’s Greyhawk HOA, formed in 2007 for the Kuna subdivision, had a similar provision allowing the builder to maintain 10 votes per building lot it still owns while homeowners get just one vote.
In its Brownstone Estates Owners’ Association, formed in 2020 for a development in Nampa, Hubble Homes received five votes per building lot it owned. The extra votes expired when the company sold every building lot.
Erwin and her neighbors said their concern is not as much about Barton being president as about how the HOA isrun. If homeowners were more involved, they might have more say in that.
“I don’t mind (Barton as president) per se as long as we have some representation from the homeowners in what we’re getting into and what we’re paying you for,” Erwin said. “We want to know what we’re paying. And why. Why did it go up?”
During an HOA meeting in April, the association voted to change the transfer-owner fee from $50 to $250, Erwin said. (The transfer fee must be paid when a home is sold and a new person becomes responsible for paying HOA dues.) CBH’s votes were decisive, because of its beefed-up voting power.
Legal expert says HOAs protect builders
Greg Coxey, a partner with the Vial Fotheringham law firm in Portland, specializes in HOA law. He said builders keep control so they can build the subdivision as close as possible to their original plans even after many of the homes are sold.
Coxey said HOAs could have sub-associations that turn over to homeowners sooner than the master association. But it’s also on buyers to know what they’re getting into, he said.
“It makes it a little bit more difficult to work with a group of owners than if you’re just hanging on to that control and doing it yourself,” Coxey said in a video interview.
Coxey understands that a developer would want to maintain control so the project could be finished as intended. He also said it’s useful for homeowners who want to be involved to educate themselves on the association’s history and how its money is spent.
Eventually, once a development like Silver Trail is fully built or close to it, the homeowners will be able to gain control and run the association on their own. It might take a few more years.
“That’s the problem,” said Laura Adkins, another homeowner. “How do we get representation?”
Said Erwin: “We have zero say in anything that goes on.”
This story was originally published May 26, 2022 4:00 AM.