By Kevin Payne
In September 2018, a ruling by the Superior Court of Arizona put Sun City’s 55-plus age restrictions in jeopardy, which could end more than a half century of charm and identity the community brought to Arizona.
This is a problem for Arizona and the future of active adult communities across the country — something must be done to protect Sun City.
As a longtime West Valley resident, I found this ruling an affront to residents of the Sun City community and prospective residents looking to move there in the future. The court ruling immediately makes any homeowner an automatic member of the Recreation Centers of Sun City, regardless of age. This is important because it means children of a Sun City homeowner could inherit their parent’s property and immediately begin living in the house, no matter their age.
The first age-restricted community in the country was Youngtown, a town located next to Sun City that first opened in 1954. In 1999, after a long-fought court battle, Youngtown lost its ability to be an age-restricted community. This prevented town officials from maintaining their model that pioneered the idea of active adult communities.
We cannot allow what happened to Youngtown to happen to Sun City, an important community that is known throughout the Southwest for its historic character and unique appeal, and that’s why I’ve introduced House Bill 2374 to protect it.
HB 2374 would exclude an organization created or incorporated for the sole purpose of supporting recreational activities from the definition of “association” and would apply the planned community provisions in state statute to include associations incorporated or organized after 1973. The bill is also written in such a way that it will only affect the RCSC and will not affect any other HOAs across the state.
It is important to stress that the RCSC is not an HOA, and it only maintains the recreational areas of Sun City, which include the pool, offices and golf courses. HOAs have declaration over property, where the RCSC does not. Although the RCSC technically has the ability to pursue foreclosure on residents who do not pay their fees for use of the recreation centers, throughout the entire existence of the RCSC, not one foreclosure has taken place. In more than 50 years, not one.
This is because organizations like the RCSC have much more freedom over how they handle foreclosures than HOAs do. They can opt to leave the lien on a house for an extended period of time for an owner who may be incapable of paying the assessment. Good luck trying to get an HOA to work with you to help keep you in your home.
The idea for age-restricted communities began here in Arizona and has forever been the model for how active adult communities should be envisioned across the country. That’s why I stand with the residents of Sun City who deserve to have their community preserved into the future.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Payne is District 21 Representative in the Arizona House.