Over the last several decades, residential America has undergone a radical transformation. Gone is the concept and practice of the owners enjoying sovereignty over their own homes. No longer is the local municipal government the closest layer of government. Although no one has actually signed away any constitutionally protected rights, the very structure of association housing has placed obstacles in the full use and enjoyment of those rights. All these changes occurred without the consent of the governed.
It was time to change that! Association Evaluation, LLC decided to ask the very people stuck in these developments to share their thoughts, concerns and their experiences. In a survey available online for about a month, over 300 people responded. And how did homeowners respond to those questions? The results of that survey have been tabulated and are available, in their entirety, no editing and no summaries, and are available for your inspection on the Coalition for Consumer Housing Policy in the Public Interest web page.
Deborah Goonan joins us On The Commons this week. Deborah, is a prolific blogger and commentator about all things to do with homeowner associations, condominiums and co-operatives. In addition to being a contributing writer for blogs and several online venues, she has her own blog called Independent American Communities. Deborah was one of the people who worked behind the scenes on this survey right from the very beginning. She explains why they asked the questions and talks about the responses they got. Apparently not everything is as rosy and carefree in residential America as we have been led to believe. There are some serious issues and some very serious problems. One of the big problems is the lack of choices for housing consumers. There are few surprises in the results. The comments are consistent with what we have been hearing from the real people who have to live in the forced mandatory membership developments.
Dr. Solomon has had his finger on the pulse of association atrocities for a number of years. He has heard from homeowners who were confused, scared and at their wit’s end. They have talked to him, cried on his shoulder and written him long emails. Through it all, he has developed a keen sense of what people are going through and what the effects are on their health. He understands the terror some homeowners live under and he also has unique perspective of where it all started and where it is headed. And the news is not good.
Dr. Gary Solomon joins us On The Commons this week. Dr Solomon is a retired Psychology Professor and a psychotherapist who has been studying the physical, emotional and psychological effects of stress and abuse on HOA homeowners. He has written a number of papers discussing the problems and published an e-book called HOA Crisis in America that is available for free. His research continues and he is committed to making a difference in the HOA arena. He explains why we are having these problems. It all comes down to money and the never ending supply that is being syphoned out of owners’ accounts.
The peeps are rebelling! Finally! No longer do homeowners believe that uniformity and conformity enhance property values. Nor do they believe that a homeowners associations creates “community”. They are tired of living in fear and refuse to be silenced any longer. With every negative story about HOAs that hit the media, hundreds and thousands of people have been commenting. Oh, I admit, a handful still repeat the inane sound bites like “you agreed”, “if you don’t like it, move”. Agreed to what? Being abused and losing your home? What idiot would do something like that? Move? Where to? Their comments make no more sense now than they ever did. By far most of the comments are pro homeowner and passionately anti HOA. Are you listening, CAI?
And did you ever think that an HOA could actually do some good?It’s ingenious! Keep reading and tune in to the show.
Nancy Hentschel joins us On The Commons this week. Nancy and her husband live in a large Homeowners association of single family homes in Texas. A few weeks ago they finally bought a couple of dinosaurs they fell in love with over a year ago. Once the dynamic dino duo took up residence in New Territory, something quite remarkable happened. Predictably they heard from the association but they also heard from their neighbors. As Nancy said, she met more of her neighbors than she had in all the years they have lived there. They not only came to the house but they wrote all over the internet. Some of the comments were short and to the point, “keep the dinos. Please, oh please”. “I think this is really cool, I wish they were my neighbors” and “Putting the neighbor in the neighborhood, one big claw at a time.” But there is more. Thanks to Nancy’s ingenuity and generosity, what started out as an expression of individuality, is doing some real good. The dinosaurs are moving around the neighborhood and checking out other front yards. For a $50 donation to any charity of their choice, all her New Territory neighbors can host the dynamic duo for 3 days before they move on to another yard. With approximately 5000 homes in New Territory, the dino walkabout can do some serious good. Cheers to the Hentschel’s, their “authentic community”, a neighborhood that refuses to be silenced and a couple of prehistoric creatures who have come back to show us the error of our ways. What fun!
Byron Hanke is largely credited with being the grandfather of what we often refer to as “homeowner associations”. But this concept of homeownership includes condominiums, co-ooperatives as well as fee simple single family homes. As I started looking at the bigger picture of HOAs, I wondered about the origins of the concept. I called Byron Hanke several times and talked to him on the phone. He never agreed to be interviewed but was generous with his time when it came to talking one on one. In October of 1999 I got a call from Lincoln Cummins, one of the three founders of CAI and its second President, inviting me to a summit to be held at at Anne and Byron’s house in a place called “Scientists Cliffs” in Maryland. Scientists Cliffs served as a model for HOAs.
Lincoln Cummings joins us On The Commons this week. Linc has been involved from the very beginning so has a unique perspective. He takes us on a trip down memory lane to the very early days of association housing, introduces us to the people involved and talks a little about the thoughts and plans they had. We’ll find out whether or not their ideas materialized as imagined or whether some things went astray. We’ll also ask Linc, hindsight being 20/20, if he could go back to the very beginning, would he do anything differently.