Residential America has changed dramatically over the last 50 years. Gone are the days when housing consumers bought a house or a plot of land and were lords of their mansions, kings or queens of their castles, where their word was law – within the confines of their property, of course. Increasingly living in residential America is more complicated, more restrictive and more expensive. Do American homeowners know and understand how and why their lives and homes have changed?
Donna Fossum joins us On The Commons. Donna is an attorney, a long time resident and condo owner in the City of Alexandria, Virginia. She was a senior policy analyst at the Rand Corporation, a former member of the Alexandria Planning Commission and a one time candidate for City Council. Donna, with her analytical background, has written the most comprehensive and complete report on the changing residential communities. After a lot of research, Donna discovers what is essentially two cities in one, divided more or less equally by the east side and the west side of the City of Alexandria. She explains how this shift resulted in double taxation for approximately half of the homeowners in Alexandria. But probably one of the most eye opening discoveries she made was the differences in the political process and participation by the citizens of the two different halves of the city. Tune in and hear her talk about all the issues that significantly affect the way we live in America today and read her report, Fossum Files . While her research and analysis centered on Alexandria, the same issues and resulting problems exist across the country.
Words have meanings and the word community generally imparts a sense of belonging. People in a community tend to have something in common. They come from similar backgrounds, are generally in the same socioeconomic group, perhaps share “hobbies and interests.” They have something that binds them together. In the good old days, before “communities” were designed and force-fed on Americans, the sense of community evolved naturally. Neighbors were friends who helped and looked out for each other. They took in a child who might have inadvertently been locked out, picked up packages for neighbors or retrieved a trash can that was blown down the street by the wind. In this brave new world of controlled living, the sense of community is no longer communal but rather a gathering of people who delight is spying on their neighbors. Now a child who is locked out might get rescued by the police, mail is left out and the association is called to report a stray trash can.
Ileana Johnson joins us On The Commons. Ileana is an American by choice and a Romanian by birth. She is a freelance journalist, an author, a speaker and a radio commentator. She also maintains a blog Ileana and her husband currently live in a Homeowner Association in Virginia where inspections are conducted regularly to ensure that no blade of grass exceeds the allowable length and that all things visible on the property conform to some rather vague standard. Creativity and individuality are highly frowned upon. Ileana tells us about life in her 300 square foot apartment in Communist Romania and draws some parallels between Communist Romania and HOAs, American Style. Sometimes it is hard to find much difference.
Anyone who has ever spent any time studying the condition of housing, American style, has to wonder how We the People, took a fairly simple and straightforward concept of homeownership and turned it into such a disaster. Oh, we have been fed a lot of platitudes, lied to and with smoke and mirrors watched as individual private rights were turned into duties and obligations, making the owner a serf. No matter how one looks at it, the condition of homeownership in the US today is plain wrong. I will be offered explanations such as, “You agreed”, HOAs protect property values”, “It is the way of the future” “Get used to it, it isn’t going away.” It is all nonsense. Not everyone is going to just roll over and accept the status quo. Remember, heroes are not made of doormats.
Jan Bergemann joins us On The Commons. Jan is the founder and president of the Florida based Cyber Citizens for Justice a grass roots organization protecting the rights of individual property owners A hard working and very active advocate in all the areas affecting Floridians, Jan has studied the stories, the laws, the cases and the trends for a number of years, and he has some rather unique insights into what is happening. While his observations are mostly focused on his state, the issues are definitely more national in scope. We talk to Jan about the confusion of what an HOA really is. Proponents and attorneys will tell us it is a “contract” and that we “agreed” to the provisions of the Declaration. While we can argue that ” we agreed” till the cows come home, the fact is HOAs are contractual in nature. It should, therefore, be relatively simple to understand, shouldn’t it? Why isn’t it? And just what are HOAs, really? Tune in, we’ll tell you – well, we’ll tell you what they are not. So, what are they?
Individual freedom, along with personal and private property rights have been eroding gradually over the last few decades. This is especially true for homeowners in mandatory membership residential associations. What is particularly galling about all this is that homeowners are told they knowingly and willingly gave up these rights – they ” agreed” and some go so far as to add “so stop your wining!” This is a total misrepresentation of the facts. No sane person in the world would agree to subject themselves to double taxation and the unfettered abuses of an industry gone wild. The harm that can be done to families, the health and welfare of the citizens and especially the children living in HOAs can easily be demonstrated by this story.
Bobbie Goolsby joins us On The Commons. Bobbie, a loving grandmother bought her granddaughter, Emma, now 6 years old, a pink playhouse. This playhouse is Emma’s safe space, it is her world. It is where she goes to feel safe, to get her therapy, to relax, to unwind and to mend and try to get better. It is what every home should be. This is something Emma understands. It is a concept that the neighborhood HOA does not appear to understand. Calling it a “metal shed” they demand it be removed immediately or face a court battle. This, despite the fact that the homeowners were assured, BEFORE buying their home, that the playhouse would not be a problem.
In a candid and heartfelt interview Bobbie tells us about Emma and how they almost lost her. What she means to the family and the joy this precious, friendly and outgoing child brings them.
In memory ofJill Schweitzer, a valiant warrior in the property rights battle for transparency and honest. Jill lost her life on October 25, 2016. Here is a show from July 2014
“If it hurts, it must be good for you”. Remember that one? Fortunately we got smart and realized that if it hurt it really was not good for us. Along the same lines of thinking is the other oft repeated canard which is that homeowner associations protect property values. “If your HOA makes you miserable and physically ill, is abusive, is grossly mismanaged, is secretive, etc. etc. etc., it is OK because it protects your property values.” This makes about as much sense as “if it hurts, it’s good for you.” Despite the fact that the “protected property values” claim is totally unsubstantiated, we hear it over and over again.
Maybe it is time to get smart and to stop being so gullible. Next time you are told HOAs protect property values, insist on tangible proof. Preventing a neighbor from painting their front door red is not acceptable and it really doesn’t prove anything.
Jill Schweitzer joins us On The Commons. Jill is a Real Estate Broker in Scottsdale, Arizona where there are a lot of mandatory membership HOAs and condominiums. She is concerned about all the problems in these controlled properties and has taken it upon herself to try to understand what is going on. She actually put pen to paper and did the math. She tracked and analyzed property values in 10 condo projects in Scottsdale over a period of 10 years. Her findings are on her website hoasavers.com It might come as no surprise that contrary to protecting property values, HOAs can actually devalue property. Tune in, we’ll talk to Jill about a myriad of problems that seem to be part and parcel of HOAs, find out why she decided to look into HOAs and what she is planning on doing to protect her clients’ property.
Claiming to be a 5th generation landowner, Philip Thompson said, “I will do whatever it takes to help preserve the countryside we call home”. The countryside he calls home is in Fauquier County, Virginia about an hour outside Washington DC. He inherited much of the land in the countryside he called home, then proceeded to place a large tract into a conservation easement managed by the Piedmont Environmental Council, (PEC). Much like the Declarations in residential associations, the easements restrict the use of the property. Much like a residential association, power is given to the administrator. And we all know that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”(Lord Acton) regardless of who has it.
Dr. Bonner Cohen joins us On The Commons. Dr. Cohen is a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research. He also serves as senior policy analyst with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. He is an author, has spoken at conferences, and appears on TV and radio. Dr. Cohen, a friend of Martha Boneta, has been following the horrors and abuses taking place in Liberty Farms. He wrote an article about the latest round of lawsuits. We find just what Mr. Thompson meant when he said he would do “whatever it takes…” And for “before” and “after” pictures of what the farm looked like under the Thomas’s and the PEC’s stewardship, watch Farming in Fear.
The simplest things in life can end up being the most complicated Add a healthy dose of stress to the mix and the most basic things quickly become overwhelming. Sadly if you live in a mandatory membership residential association, making everything more difficult and ridiculous seems to be part of their reason for being.
Shelly Marshall joins me On The Commons this week. Shelly is a dynamic owner and advocate, a keynote speaker and an author. Her first HOA book is called HOA Warrior. She has followed that with HOA Warrior II, her second book. Her book is full of great advice for both homeowners and board members, incredible stories, interesting facts and lots of forms to help the homeowners by pass the absurd run around, designed to frustrate and further inflame the situation. Requesting association documents a homeowner is entitled to often denied and sometimes gets down to the wrong wording, the wrong form and the wrong color of ink. We talk to Shelly about what is happening, discuss some of the emails she receives from her readers and talk about legislation designed to regulate HOAs. You’ll want to hear the show and you’ll want to read her latest book, HOA Warrior II. Visit her website for more information of how and where you can get her book.
When I started producing the show 14 years ago, I wondered if I would have enough material to cover during the initial 6 month contract. I need not have worried because the HOA wars multiplied like rabbits, homeowners and attorneys on both sides of the battle fields wanted to tell their side of the story and legislators started scratching their heads wondering what to do about all the complaints they were getting from their constituents. I guess that was before the days when the polls decided everyone was madly in love with the idea of being abused and just loved living the kontrolled life.
In my quest several years ago to make sense of the assault on hearth and home in America, I met the gentleman we will be talking to on this show. Tom was fighting a much bigger battle in a much bigger arena and he was making a difference. People in power started listening to what he had to say and some even acted on his advice proving that a small, handful of thoughtful and committed people can change the world.
Joining us today On The Commons we have Tom DeWeese. Tom is the founder and President of the Virginia based American Policy Center. He has been an advocate for freedom, property and individual rights for the past quarter of a century. We talk to Tom about just a few of the successes he has had over the years, learn a little about the important points when initially starting on the road to righting the ills of the world and just how critical having a written plan can be. He is a dynamic speaker who is energetic and passionate about message. He is currently working on webinars you can sign up for on his website: www.americanpolicy.org Check it out, you’ll find lots of other good information there as well.
Have you heard the one about homeowner associations being “democracy, up close and personal”? How about homeowners in HOAs are better able to influence their immediate neighborhoods than their counterparts who live in the real world? And one of my all time favorites, “If you don’t like the rules, you can change them.” See, there is absolutely nothing to worry about, it is all oh so very civilized.
Or is it?
Some Texas homeowners actually believed all that jazz. They thought they had a say in their neighborhood and decided bans on fences or fence heights to preserve the view of a nonexistent golf course made no sense. So, they did what any concerned person would do, they tried to amend the governing documents to change outdated, restrictions and pave the way for a more friendly place to live.
Joining us On The Commons this week is Bill Davis. Bill, a Texas attorney, represents homeowners who find themselves having to protect their rights and their homes from the associations they have the misfortune of belonging to. We’ll talk to Bill about a particular association and find out why, as a “legal formality” the association sued 120 members who signed a petition to amend the governing docs. We’ll also talk about some of the “games” attorneys and associations play to circumvent the rules, and in some cases, the laws.