Thieu Nguyen and Dr. Thomas J. Ellis

Hosted and produced by Shu Bartholomew, On The Commons is a weekly radio show dedicated to discussing the many issues surrounding mandatory homeowner associations, the fastest growing form of residential housing in the nation.

Proponents of communal living would have us all believe that the concept is positively Utopian.  What could possibly be better than pooling all your resources in order to live the life of the rich and famous?  Association living, they argue, provides you with a nice unit in a highly controlled environment.  What they neglect to mention is that by pooling all your resources you risk losing your home.  What they also conveniently omit is that YOU are the one who will be “highly controlled”.  The results of this living arrangement sometimes make the headlines, but not always.  That’s when the proponents of this housing scam trot out with words like “alleged abuses” and “isolated incidents”.  But what is life like when you are living the life of an “isolated incident” and are putting up with “alleged abuses”?  And what happens when you try to make this absurd living arrangement work for you?
On The Commons with Shu this week are Thieu Nguyen and Dr. Thomas J. Ellis.  Thieu, a 25 year old disabled Vietnamese immigrant is living the American nightmare.  He and his family are facing losing their HOA controlled unit to foreclosure.  As Thieu says, in Vietnam you lose your home at gun point but in Texas all it takes is a pen and a piece of paper.  Tommy. on the other hand, lives in a high-rise, also in Texas, where laughable best describes some of the rules adopted by the board of directors but there is nothing funny about having to live there.  Tommy is also at risk of losing his home.  Please join us On The Commons this Saturday, February 23, 2008.  We’ll find out what these two Texans have done to incur the wrath of the HOA Gods.


Jan Bergmann

Hosted and produced by Shu Bartholomew, On The Commons is a weekly radio show dedicated to discussing the many issues surrounding mandatory homeowner associations, the fastest growing form of residential housing in the nation.

From the very early days of mass producing homeowner associations, the only “solution” that has been offered to the many problems has been “education”.  “Homeowners need to be educated on how to live in their homes.”  “Board members need to be educated.”  “Managers should be educated.”  And so, to educate everyone, the Community Associations Institute was formed and for over 30 years CAI has been the only source of “education” in the country.  After 30 years of training, educating and credentialing everyone involved in the 40 year experiment, problems not only persist but have increased.  Is education the answer?  If so, is CAI the right organization to be doing all this educating or are their efforts an exercise in futility?
On The Commons with Shu this week is Jan Bergemann.  Jan is president of the Florida based Cyber Citizens for Justice CCFJ and host of the most recent conference put on by homeowners for homeowners.  Please join us On The Commons.  We’ll talk about why CCFJ put on the conference, what was involved in setting it up, lessons learned and any feedback they received.  Find out what you should know if you are planning on hosting a similar event in your state.


Florida Conference – Part 1

Hosted and produced by Shu Bartholomew, On The Commons is a weekly radio show dedicated to discussing the many issues surrounding mandatory homeowner associations, the fastest growing form of residential housing in the nation.
There is no question that there is strength in numbers, but those numbers have to work in unison towards a common goal.  Over the years the industry that services the country’s ever increasing number of mandatory membership common ownership developments has been organized, and at least on the surface, has been marching to the beat of the same drummer.  The homeowners on the other hand, who far outnumber the industry members, have been, for the most part content to just let things be.  But times they are a changing and the homeowners are starting to take a more active role in the whole concept. 
California, New Jersey and now Florida have all hosted conferences.  These conferences were set up by the homeowners for the homeowners.  Will these conferences become annual events?  Will other states follow suit?
On The Commons with Shu this week are some of the presentations and comments from the homeowners at the latest homeowner conference organized and hosted by Cyber Citizens for Justice .  This clip was recorded on Friday evening at the opening session in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Please join us On The Commons.  There were other presentations which we will bring you in the coming weeks and months. 


Frank Short and Jan Bergmann

As the number of mandatory membership associations grow so do the problems and issues facing them.  Homeowners increasingly are calling upon their elected officials seeking help.  After all these years, the question isn’t IF something should be done about HOAs but rather WHAT should be done about them.  Every year state representatives across the country find themselves facing various and sundry supposed “fixes”, in the form of proposed bills.  And every year the problems just seem to get worse.  So where do we go from here?  What is the answer to this perennial problem?  Is there an answer? 
On The Commons with Shu this week are Jan Bergemann, President of the Florida based Cyber Citizens for Justices  Jan will talk briefly about the conference he and his group are sponsoring for homeowners to be held in Ft Lauderdale in February.  It is the homeowners who will be talking about the issues and the legislators who will be discussing their bills and the programs they are considering.  And in the Studio with me is Frank Short.  Frank, an attorney and well known homeowner and individual rights advocate will be talking about proposed legislation currently being considered by the Virginia General Assembly.  Please join us On The Commons.  We’ll talk about the intent behind at least one bill and whether, if enacted, it will protect the homeowners.


Elaine Musser and Dr. Rene Alvir

It is well documented that stress can wreak havoc with our physical and mental well being.  Stress destroys our body’s immune system, making us more susceptible to a whole host of problems, from headaches to ulcers, to eating disorders to more life threatening problems including cardiovascular diseases, cancer and ultimately death.  While stress can not be completely eliminated from our lives, what can we do to avoid unnecessary stress?  Is it possible for the stress caused by HOA living lead to chronic health problems and even death? 
On The Commons with Shu this week are Elaine Roberts Musser, an attorney with Building Bridges, a California based organization dedicated to preventing elder abuse. And in the studio Shu is joined by Dr Rene Alvir.  Dr Alvir is a retired physician in Northern Virginia who is well versed on how stress affects our health. Please join us On The Commons.  We’ll follow the story of one senior condo owner who had been battling her association for a couple of years and we’ll get a medical opinion on how the chronic and relentless stress she was under could have contributed to her poor health and ultimate death.   Copyright OTC Multimedia 2008.


Alexander Lee

If there is any truth at all to the notion that homeowner associations are beneficial to the  members, then does it necessarily follow that they are good for the community at large?  Is there any evidence that all the rules and restrictions purported to protect property values  actually do protect values and if so, at what cost? 
On The Commons with us this week is Alexander Lee.  Alex is the founder and Executive Director of Project Laundry List and maintains a web site at based in Concord, New Hampshire.   The organization is proposing simple steps and solutions that would contribute in a big way towards reducing our reliance and use of electricity.  One of the easiest steps would be to reduce our reliance on clothes dryers by returning to the simple clothesline.  Unfortunately, most, if not all, of the 60 million Americans live in associations that ban the use of clotheslines.  Please join us On The Commons.  We’ll talk about how HOAs tend to hinder what might be better for the people at large. 


Bill Davis

When the HOA factory first opened its doors four decades ago, the recorded Declarations were short and fairly simple.  The restrictions against the free use of private property were few and relatively innocuous.  Today however, the recorded CC&Rs tend to be infinitely more cumbersome and complex, taking away choices and freedoms homeowners once took for granted.  If Americans across the country could lose so much in such a short time, what does the future hold for tomorrow’s homeowners?  Is there a way to watch the trends as they develop?
On The Commons with us this week is Bill Davis.  Bill is a Texas attorney who bought a house on a large lot and found himself learning all about mandatory membership associations.  In the process he became a little more knowledgeable about HOA laws than he ever intended to be.  Please join us On The Commons.  We’ll talk about the current trends in associations and what they really mean.  You’ll want to tune in because you might just be able to connect the dots of some of the things that have been happening in your association.  And if nothing sounds familiar now, wait, because it wont be long before they make an appearance in an HOA near you. 

Mark Benson

Like it or not, the number of association housing is increasing.  With the trend towards higher density development and municipal mandates a substantial percentage of the new housing stock is in an HOA of some form or other.  Along with the increase in association housing the number of reported incidents of theft, embezzlement and other fraudulent activity have also grown.  Can something be done to protect the interests of the owners?  What safeguards can be taken to make stealing from the association funds a lot harder?
On The Commons with us this week is  Mark Benson.  Mark is a former owner of his own management company, Benson’s Inc. which he sold last year. He has earned just about every credential offered to managers, including a  CMCA, AMD, PCAM and is currently a Florida Supreme Court Certified County Court Mediator.  In addition to several other appointments he is a member of the Florida CAM Council   .  He is working on a bill that would make managers more accountable for their actions and the advice they give association board members,  You can read his proposed bill  And to reach Mark send him an email at  Please join us On The Commons this Saturday, November 17, 2007.  We’ll talk about the all sorts of things HOA related.

Vellie Hall and Gary Baise

In the past, property ownership was simple.  By virtue of ownership, the owner enjoyed sovereignty over his or her own property.  But those days are long gone.  Today more people and more agencies have more to say about what you can and can’t do and how you can use your home, than you, the property owner have.  Many of those changes and restrictions start at the local level.  So wouldn’t it make sense that the people who have the power to either complicate or simplify things are the people who are willing to listen to and work with their constituents? 
On The Commons with us this week are Gary Baise, candidate for Chairman of the Board of Fairfax County, Virginia and Vellie Dietrich Hall, candidate for Supervisor of Mason District.  Both candidates believe it is time for a change and both candidates are committed to being responsive to the citizens and tax payers of Fairfax County.  Gary is an attorney and was at the forefront of the environmental movement, working on reducing air pollution, ensuring the safety of our drinking water and protecting the environment.  Gary has a web site .  Vellie owns her own financial management company that has contracts with the Department of Defense where she has built a reputation for finding cost cutting measures and saving the tax payers millions of dollars.  Vellie’s web page is .  Please join us On The Commons.  We’ll talk about the vision they have for the future of the county and we’ll find out how they plan on making some of the much nee

ded changes.


Evan McKenzie

Most people believe that ownership is absolute.  You work hard, earn the money to buy something and once you have bought, and paid for it, you own it.  That includes property.  And in the old days, that is exactly how things worked but over the years, the notion of absolute ownership has been watered down.  In the case of property ownership, first through local restrictions and eventually through mandatory memberships in deed restricted developments. 
Are these restrictions limited to just property ownership or are there other forces at work to strip Americans of rights and liberties? 
On The Commons with us this week is Professor Evan McKenzie.  Evan is the author of Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Private Residential Government, Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois Chicago, Law professor at the John Marshall School of Law, a practicing attorney and he still finds time to maintain a blog at  He is a well respected authority, and frequent commentator, on the issues related to homeowner associations.   Please join us On The Commons this Saturday, October 13, 2007.  We’ll talk about the big picture, property ownership and the general loss of our civil rights.  We’ll talk a little about what is being done and discuss what can be done to protect what’s left of our rights.  As always, you’ll want to hear what Professor McKenzie has to say. 

News and Views About Homeowner Associations