They sounded like such great ideas, so what could possibly go wrong? Instead of keeping residential America under the jurisdiction of local municipal governments, the trend was to put them in private enclaves where covenants ruled and where the notion of a contract was above the law. Add a few frills where everyone shares in the expense of amenities and you have heaven on earth. Right? Now expand the utopian lifestyle to the renters by converting apartments into condos and establishing special financing to help them get their foot on the first rung of prosperity and we are on our way.
As I write this, my mother’s words come back to haunt me; “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.”
Professor Evan McKenzie joins us On The Commons this week. Evan was on the first radio show I ever did and I am delighted to have him join us as we mark our 15th anniversary of On The Commons.
Evan is a political science professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, he teaches law at the John Marshall School of Law, he is the author ofPrivatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government and Beyond Privatopia: Rethinking Residential Private Government. He maintains a blog at The Privatopia Papers where he discusses and follows the news and trends on associations. He is just back from a conference in Israel on private communities where he presented a paper titled: “Rethinking Residential Private Government in the United States: Recent Trends in practices and Policy”. Join us as Evan shares some of the problems and issues other countries are facing with their experiences in private communities, and how at least one country, Spain, deals with the “apathy” problem.
American homeowners once enjoyed complete sovereignty over property they owned. Home truly was their castle where they raised their families, entertained friends, hosted get togethers and surrounded themselves with the things that meant something to them. Sadly that way of life gradually evaporated. Over the last three or four decades that right of ownership has eroded, leaving homeowners confused, shocked, upset and often in unimaginable trouble. Inordinate amounts of money are spent on the most legal ridiculous legal battles with neighbors and local governments.
How did that happen? How did a simple and sane concept devolve into the battlefields that were once our residential neighborhoods? What happened to our “communities” where neighbors not only knew your name but were ready and willing to help.
Tom DeWeese joins us On The Commons this week. Tom is one of the nation’s leading advocates on private property rights. He is the founder and president of The American Policy Center headquartered in Warrenton, Virginia. Tom is a prolific writer, and speaker, he is energetic, outspoken and passionate about educating citizens, politicians and organizations about the many threats to our personal freedoms and our property rights. He warns us that special interests are all too proficient at convincing politicians to enact harmful legislation and to adopt policies designed to alter the way we live. With upcoming elections, candidates will be appearing and speaking at a number of public events. He has devised 3 questions to ask political hopefuls about the environment, education and eminent domain. Tom demonstrates how all these issues are part of the bigger picture, including residential associations.
Violence is alive and well in residential America. So is bullying. And so are the feelings of helplessness, loneliness and frustration that countless American homeowners face on a daily basis. Quite a few of these stories do make the headlines but many more of them never see the light of day. We’ve heard from homeowners who were beaten up during meetings for asking questions, we’ve heard about the elderly being shoved and pushed by the bullies in charge, we’ve heard about pets being poisoned and shot, we’ve heard about owners and guests being terrorized by cars on the streets of their developments. We’ve heard about the stresses of association living get to the point where death is preferable. There have been more suicides and attempted suicides in residential America than we can even begin to imagine.
What is it about this version of the American Dream that causes so much violence, stress and pain for the members? And why is the real government so oblivious to these problems?
Jerry Berg joins us On The Commons. Jerry is a Kansas condo owner who has experienced first hand some of the violence that seems to be prevalent in America’s over almost half a million mandatory membership condos and homeowner associations. We’ll talk to Jerry and find out what led to the violent confrontation that put him in the hospital after being beaten up with a crowbar and put the manager in jail, at least briefly. We’ll also find out why, after several years, nothing has been resolved and the cases are ongoing. We’ll learn how the bullying in his particular association caused two of his neighbors to commit suicide.
The legislative process never ceases to amaze me. Every year thousands of bills are introduced by our representatives both at the Federal level and in State Capitols across the country. Some have a list of sponsors while others do not. Every bill goes through a hearing process in subcommittees where they are either passed on to the full committee as presented, amended or killed. The survivors of the first cut then go through the process again in front of the full committee, and if not killed get passed on either intact or amended to one of the two houses, talked about, voted on, amended and if not killed the bill goes to the other house and eventually ends up on the President’s or the Governor’s desk where it is signed into law or vetoed.
With the seemingly endless opportunities to hear and discuss proposed legislation, how on earth do we end up with so many bad laws on the books?
David Kahne and Beanie Adolph join us On The Commons this week. David is among a handful of attorneys who has and will represent homeowners in HOAs. Although she has never lived in an association controlled development, Beanie is a tireless advocate for preserving individual and private property rights. She is the Director of the HOA Reform Coalition of Texas. She also provides a page where homeowners can share their HOA problems because, as she explains, “… there is no state agency where homeowners can register their problems”. David and Beanie give us a rundown of some of the bills the Texas legislature had in front of them. We also learn that the legislators did not want to hear from the homeowners so David went to Austin to represent the Coalition and Texas homeowners. Tune in for a run down on the bills, what they would have done, which ones passed and which ones were killed, at least for this year.