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