Summer 2014

Inventory / Banned in the USA

The homogenizing prohibitions of Common Interest Developments

Tobias Armborst, Daniel D’Oca, and Georgeen Theodore

“Inventory” is a column that examines or presents a list, catalogue, or register.


In the northern foothills of the Missouri Ozarks, a few men with a large tract of land are looking for other agriculturally inclined, eco-friendly artisans to join them in establishing a new community: a place free from the bonds of organized religion and political correctness that celebrates “all aspects of living from the times of our ancestors before the various diasporas into others’ lands and modern cultures.” Outside Indianapolis, a woman with a few acres of land is wondering who might be interested in starting a community “devoted to astral travel and telepathy, and possibly telekinesis.” In a bucolic new community called Adidam, a dozen itinerant followers of “the way of the heart” are advertising space for new residents—available only to “formally acknowledged devotee[s] of Adi Da Samraj.” Members of the Alone Together Hermitage are inviting people to join a community “of hermits and loners living together for the mutual benefit and protection of the whole.” There, “great efforts are taken by all to ensure that the sanctity of … solitude is never broken under any circumstances,” and “a sophisticated process of communication and notification has been developed so that no member is required to interact with any other.” In another part of the country, a self-identified loner is looking to connect with other “freethinkers and underground intellectuals … afraid to commit to communities” in order to “pool resources and start an outsiders’ community … for those familiar with rejection.”1

Odds are, the people living near you are a little like you. You may not all be followers of the same guru, but in all likelihood, your politics, professional field, and religious beliefs overlap somewhat with those of your neighbors. What’s comfortable is often what’s familiar, and to the extent that people get to choose where they live, it’s hardly surprising that they end up where they fit in. And there are often benefits to clustering with like-minded individuals. In Common Interest Developments (CIDs), residents with similar hobbies, values, or faiths can practice these hobbies, values, and faiths with greater ease. They can, for example, enjoy golf courses, swimming pools, and other amenities they would not have been able to afford as individual households. Astronomers in Sky Village—a CID at the foot of Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains—have astronomer neighbors who are as interested in looking at the stars as they are, and who are correspondingly less likely to pollute the night sky with outdoor lights. And while most CIDs center on shared interests, some are designed for residents with shared vulnerabilities. In an “environmental isolation” community near the town of Snowflake, Arizona, residents with debilitating sensitivities to certain chemicals have similarly sensitive neighbors who are also likely to refrain from using the offending products. And like-minded clustering isn’t exclusive to CIDs, of course. Consider New York City, one of the most heterogeneous metropolises in the world, and yet also home to a number of communities based on common interest. For at least a century, artists, for instance, have benefitted from clustering there, which facilitated the generation, exchange, and dissemination of ideas and work. We may celebrate diversity, but many of us benefit quite a lot from some degree of homogeneity.

Subscribe to access our entire archive.
Log In and read it now.