There is a crisis in residential America that few people are aware of or are willing to acknowledge. Fortunately you can’t keep all Americans in the dark forever. Sooner or later, the truth will come out and I am hopeful that sooner rather than later, more people will allow their eyes to be opened to what is happening. We have covered the physical health problems that are due to the stress of living in an HOA. Dr Solomon’s ebook HOA:Crisis in America is a must read to understand this. Another serious problem that affects our health is the unhealthy condition of our dwelling units. I hesitate to call them homes because, frankly, they are a disgrace.
Notwithstanding all the money we throw at various and sundry government agencies, they have ALL abdicated their duties and responsibilities to their constituents, fellow citizens and their employers. Governments are failing us. Entry level homes, McMansions and everything in between are being built on contaminated land, without the benefit of independent inspections to ensure they are built properly and then turned over to “private sector” to manage. without any adult supervision at all.
Let’s find out just how well that is working out in just one such development in Pennsylvania.
Andy Ostrowski joins us On The Commons this week. Andy is a civil rights attorney, founder of the Pennsylvania Civil Rights Law Network and a congressional candidate in 2014 who learned about the problems in HOAs during his campaign and vowed to stay in the fight whether he won or not. He is now very passionate about trying to do something about housing and is a very active and outspoken critic of the very unpleasant occurrences in our neighborhoods. One of these developments is in Pennsylvania in a small condominium called Hidden Valley where mold, environmental issues, sewer problems, unexplained fires and untimely deaths have been part of every day life. Andy reveals the “hidden truths” about what goes on in Hidden Valley.
There was a time when, be it humble or lavish, your home was indeed your castle. However, with the “Smart Growth” advocates reducing the amount of land available for humans, the municipalities shunting off their responsibilities onto the private sector with their HOA mandates and developers enjoying the spoils of increased density and shoddier construction, our dwelling units are anything but a safe haven. Even the notion that a home is an asset, and a step on the ladder to success is questionable these days. But the biggest canard in all the HOA chatter is that HOAs protect property values.
Sara Benson joins us On The Commons this week. Sara is a Real Estate Broker in Chicago who, with Don DeBat, co-authored a book called Escaping Condo Jail: The Keys to Navigating Risks and Surviving Perils of the “Carefree” Community Lifestyle. We talk to Sara about the book, why she wrote it and what she learned along the way. As a condo owner herself, she is well aware of the problems and pitfalls of condo ownership. We talk about the “carrot” that is dangled in front of housing consumers about the HOA protecting property values. That notion that makes homeowners tolerate the unacceptable is explained and put to rest, once and for all in this interview. A mismanaged association can, and does, reduce property values. We learn that 72% of residential associations are underfunded which means that a special assessment could be looming in their future. But how does a potential buyer know whether the unit they have fallen in love with and want to buy is going to be that special home they dream of or the first step on a trip to the poor house? Resale packages from the association do not give consumers all the information they need to make a good business decision on whether to buy or walk away. We also learn about a new service that is available called Association Evaluation, where consumers can order a comprehensive report on the association they are considering buying in.
When I was young, Judy, our wire haired fox terrier would jump on my bed and curl up and sleep at the foot of my bed. In the morning I would be curled up on my pillow, while Judy was sprawled across my bed. It never failed, when I wasn’t looking, Judy took over and hogged all the space and would not give it up without a bit if a struggle. The forces that are reshaping our neighborhoods and communities, are not as cuddly and loving as Judy but they too, are taking all the space and forcing us into ever smaller boxes. If you have ever wondered why our homes are shrinking, and why our communities are more crowded and why our children have no place to play, you will have to tune in.
Tom DeWeese joins us On The Commons this week. Tom is the indefatigable President of The American Policy Center, based here in Virginia. He has long been warning us about the inherent dangers of Agenda 21 and the global policies that are shaping and revamping our lives. He describes, step by step, the methods used to influence city leaders and planners, and yes, even the citizens, to embrace the new planning schemes being implemented around the country. With soothing words like “smart growth”, “traffic calming devices” and “walkable communities” citizens are being lulled into accepting these redesigns. Do pretty words really paint a realistic picture these newly gentrified suburbs represent? Do we really want to live in little boxes that are “stacked and packed” with no room to stretch?
Over the years we have been led to believe that people actually want HOA controlled housing. We have been told HOAs protect property values and provide housing consumers with access to amenities reserved for the rich and famous. Homeowners actually believed that their homes were worth more because there was a pool or a tennis court or a basketball hoop within walking distance. So without question, they accepted all the inherent risks, restrictions and extra costs associated with homeowner associations and jumped into homeownership with both feet. Over time American homeowners acquiesced and accepted all the negative nonsense that was part and parcel of this type of housing, believing it was inevitable. And gradually, because of municipal association mandates, housing consumers found they had no options. All that was available was tacky little boxes, made of cardboard, wrapped in plastic, stacked one on top of the other, and that became the “norm”.
Fred Fischer and Jill Schweitzer join us On The Commons this week. Fred has been digging through archives and researching local municipal zoning ordinances and discovered that there is more than one way to handle open spaces and amenities. Actually, he says you can maintain them publicly or privately, the former through special municipal districts funded by the residents who will benefit by the amenities through a special fee collected through mortgage companies, much like insurance and property taxes and the latter in the form of an HOA with HOA fees and dues. However the “private” way of maintaining common areas comes with a whole host of additional risks and unlimited liabilities that are in fine print.
Jill is a Realtor who would like to be able to provide her clients with a choice. As she tells me, no one has ever asked her to find them a house in an HOA, in fact many of my clients specifically request non HOA housing. So when Jill and Fred teamed up, combined their knowledge, skills and resources what they came up with was their aha moment. Together they put together a report, still in draft form, to educate and lobby for choices in housing. As they say, there is a better way of doing this while giving housing consumers a choice. Join us as we talk about the options and the many not so little white lies that have made their way into the legislatures across the country.
‘Tis the season, once again, to tweak state laws regulating condominiums and homeowner associations, in an effort to make them just a wee bit more acceptable or palatable to the masses. Almost all states, faced with growing frustration, dissatisfaction and problems with mandatory membership residential associations are trying, once again, to find “solutions”. Will this be the year they finally get it right and allow home OWNERS to live in their own homes in peace and quiet? Or will special interests prevail, yet again, and convince law makers that the homeowners really do want to give all their rights away?
Bill Davis joins us On The Commons this week. Bill, a Texas attorney changed his specialty to HOA law and is one of a rare breed who represents owners and helps them protect their rights. More than most people, including attorneys, Bill understands the ramifications of proposed legislation. We will talk to about a couple of new bills that have been signed into law, one in Illinois and the other in California. You will find his analysis of the laws, his insights and comments to be informative and spot on.
The American dream is often described as a house in the suburbs, surrounded by a white picket fence, where the kids and pets play safely on a privately owned lawn instead of having to trek across town to go to a public park to kick a ball around. It was the personal and private space that people who lived in cramped urban centers craved. That dream was soon spoiled by the involuntary imposition of a homeowner association, where board members and managers spent their time watching every move, measuring every blade of grass, counting every plant and timing how long garage doors are left open. But in the early days, homeowners at least had the space they so desperately wanted. Well, things are changing, now homeowners are being herded like cattle into densely developed, shoddily built, dwelling units. No more space, no more autonomy, no more privately owned blades of grass or flowers and the HOA is ever present. This is what is referred to as “smart growth”. But just how well is it working for the residents? How does being packed in, one on top the other, contribute to a healthy and happy lifestyle?
Neil Brooks joins us On The Commons this week. Neil has experienced it all. The photo in this promo is an aerial view of the rooftops of Neil’s house and his three closest neighbors, built just a few years ago. This is what “smart growth” looks like. As you can see, there is next to no private space, and is as far from the notion of the American Dream as one can get. We’ll talk to Neil, find out how living in such close proximity to his neighbors has affected him and his health and we’ll learn how responsive the police have been when it came to enforcing local ordinances. Of course you will not be surprised to find out that the HOA isolated him instead of trying to help, while all his neighbors stood idly by, too afraid to come to his defense or say a word lest they get targeted. We’ve also heard about the physical violence that seems to be present every time someone makes a ripple in the status quo in HOAs. But that is not all there is to Neil’s story. Not by a long shot. There is so much more to his story and when you listen to his interview you will no doubt agree that he is the poster child of Dr. Gary Solomon’s dire predictions in his new book, hoacrisisinamerica.com . You can read Neil’s story on his web site The View from the Gulag here http://nbeener.blogspot.com
Words have power and meaning and by using the correct words, one can further define the sense one is trying to convey. Advocates for HOAs like to call them “Community Associations”, implying a kinder, gentler development. The dictionary defines “community”, in part as, “a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals”. However, many of the unfortunate people who find themselves in one of these mandatory membership compounds often refer to them as war zones, oligopolies, kontrolled kommunes and a number of other less flattering names, implying that all is not harmonious and pleasant. In a real community, people get-together to work out any common issues without having to resort to kangaroo courts, fines and a trip to the court house.
Greg Chumbley joins us On The Commons this week. Greg is a homeowner in Naples, Florida who decided to exercise his right to know what he was paying for and where his HOA dues were going. And like many homeowners found himself researching the Florida statutes to discover what rights he had. To him it made perfectly good sense that if he was being forced to pay for it, he had a right to know what he was paying for. Along the way he ran into the usual, entrenched board members, the silent management company employees and that brick wall we keep hearing about. That didn’t stop Greg. After exhausting all avenues of trying to get the information he was entitled to in Village Walk, his Kontrolled Kommune, he decided to go to court. He is sharing what he learned in the process on his web page http://www.sueyourhoacheaply.us so that others in his “community” of people with who share his attitudes, interests and goals can also find out what they are paying for. Please join us to hear Greg’s story.
Over the years much has been written about kontrolled housing in America. There have been scholarly books, legal books and Law Review articles, regular newspaper and magazine articles, blog posts, websites dedicated to exploring HOAs, personal accounts of life in an HOA, satire, lots and lots of horror stories, There have even been “how to” live in an HOA, articles trying to convince you that “you agreed” to the rules and abuses and if you don’t like it, move. There have even been books and rosy accounts of all the joys of HOA living but never has there ever been a book quite like HOA: Crisis in America.
Quite apart from the fact that the book is the most creative, innovative and fun way to read, watch and hear a book, it is the first time that anyone has ever brought science into the HOA discussion. And there is one more unique thing about HOA: Crisis in America, it is FREE. I am very excited about the book and so greatly honored that Dr. Gary Solomon is launching his book through On The Commons. This book takes the discussion and the research to a whole new level. It gives us all the tools to get beyond the legal twists and turns, the emotional discussion, the misrepresentations of what HOAS are and are not, the fear associated with this form of housing and leaves us having to ask – and answer – the question of whether this is a viable form of housing and whether or not it can be reformed and made into a kinder gentler monster.
Dr. Gary Solomon joins us On The Commons this week to introduce his new book, HOA: Crisis in America. Dr. Solomon is a Psychologist, a retired professor of psychology in Nevada who noticed something a little strange in his new development and when neighbors asked him if he was having problems with the HOA, he put two and two together and started studying the effects of HOAs on humans. What he discovered was quite alarming which led to two papers, The HOA Syndrome and Elder Abuse. He studied the psychology behind giving people unfettered power and described the type of personality that gravitates to these positions. The most exciting part of this book is the science behind the physical affects on the residents in HOAs. The physiological changes to our bodies is explained in very clear, easy to understand language that even our legislators should be able to grasp. Please send it to them and ask them to watch, read and listen to the book. Dr. Solomon’s gift to you can be accessed at http://hoacrisisinamerica.com and http://www.pitythepoorfool.com