Andy Ostrowski

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.

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Sara Benson

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. 

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Frank Short

There are several reasons to thank the Virginia Legislature this year, not the least of which is to have all the new bills in for us to talk about on our annual St. Patrick’s Day show. ˇSome years the news is pretty grim for homeowners because the special interests have managed to convince our esteemed law makers to further empower HOAs. ˇThis year, however, things were a little different and our legislators actually had the best interest of their constituents in mind. ˇ

Frank Shortˇjoins usˇOn The Commons. ˇFrank is an attorney and a friend and our resident St Patrick’s Day leprechaun and takes us through all the new bills and laws that affect the Virginia Property Owners Association Act (POAA) and the Condo Act. ˇHe explains the new laws, tells us whether they passed or failed and how they would affect us. ˇThis year we talk about 6 bills, some passed and others were tabled. ˇShould the ones that were passed over this year be reintroduced next year? ˇHow would they protect the homeowners’ rights and their property? ˇCould some of the bills be used as a model for other states? ˇTune in, you won’t want to miss this one.

With special thanks to Senator Chap Peterson for sponsoring a bill titled “The Homeowners Bill of Rights”. ˇThanks also to Senator Dave Marsden, Delegates Chris Peace, Brenda Pogge and Tom Rust forˇsponsoring homeowner friendly bills this year. We appreciate your efforts on our behalf.

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Tom DeWeese

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?  

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