Home ownership is a simple concept – or it used to be. People bought homes to shelter themselves and their families, to own a little piece of the world that is all their own where they can surround themselves with the people and the things they love and exclude everything and anyone they don’t want. People were truly kings and queens of their castles. And then along came HOAs, condominiums and co-ops and nothing is sane, simple or sensible any more. Instead of the quiet, peaceful and safe enjoyment of a home, Americans are now being forced into kontrolled kommunities where life can be quite miserable.
This new and rather intrusive living style seems to have empowered the neighbors to be more insulting, insensitive, and extremely rude. For a country that prides itself on being hospitable, tolerant and inclusive, HOAs appear to be setting the stage for intolerance, disrespect and contempt. Far from living in communities, this brave new world thrives on living in war zones.
Joining us On The Commons this week we have Ron Lemons. Ron and his wife Peggy have experienced firsthand the problems that arise from a mismanaged condominium. This one seems to have it all; moldy units from lack of maintenance, lack of responsiveness and lack of concern for the residents. There is also lack of sunshine and lack of accountability, especially when it comes to finances. The contemptuousness of the board members telling their disabled neighbors that they are not wanted and they need to move. I guess no one asked Ron and Peggy how satisfied they were with kontrolled living, because you see, they are an “isolated incident”. Tune in to hear Ron explain the full story.
Little boxes on the hillside, Little boxes all the same, And they are all made out of ticky tacky, And they all look just the same.
And the people in the houses All went to the university, Where they were put in boxes, And they came out all the same.
Melvina Reynolds’ lyrics, written before ticky tacky little boxes were mass produced, were prophetic. They perfectly capture the sense of soulless little boxes, all the same, all made of ticky tacky. Any attempt to add a little personality or any deviation from the uniformity of the little boxes made of ticky tacky is not tolerated. And so the little boxes just keep multiplying like rabbits.
The latest statistics from the Community Association Institute (CAI) is that 64 million people live in these little boxes and pay 65 BILLION Dollars a year for the privilege. How much of those Billions of dollars goes to pay experts in invention to conjure up reasons for why these little boxes are the preferred way to live? There was a time when people believed it but more and more folks are calling these flights of fantasy, “myths”.
On The Commons with us today is Deborah Goonan. Deborah no longer lives in an involuntary membership association but looks at them from the outside in. She researches them and blogs about them, often pointing out many of the discrepancies and contradictions in the “official” blurbs put out by CAI. Join us as we discuss just 3 of the most often repeated fallacies about HOAs. Myth #1, CAI represents homeowners – Myth #2 HOAs are the purest form of democracy and Myth #3 – Survey says…. homeowners are overwhelmingly happy with their HOAs. Gives one the warm and fuzzies, doesn’t it?
We can continue to deny the systemic flaws in the nations homeowner associations, we can ignore the problems, make excuses, blame the victims, minimize the issues hoping they will miraculously disappear but at some point, those rose colored glasses are going to have to come off. At some point we will have to stop fooling ourselves into believing that the light at the end of the tunnel is the rising sun and acknowledge that the train wreck is imminent. This shoddily built house of cards is going to come tumbling down.
Tyler Berding joins us On The Commons this week. Tyler is an attorney in California who represents associations. Unlike many of his colleagues, Tyler has been open about the problems with the HOA/condo model and admits that it is not working. He has long been warning us about the problems of multi unit housing, particularly the condo conversions. These buildings start off as rentals and are then sold as condos but as older products they have a shorter remaining life span than a newer building. To compound the tragedy, they are usually sold to people who are least able to afford the special assessments for major repairs and replacements that aren’t far behind. We’ll talk about the problems and try to figure out if there are any answers to the housing dilemma.
Tyler maintains a blog called Condo Issues http://condoissues.blogspot.com . One of the entries is a 2013 report on a survey conducted in California about reserves in HOAs and Condos. Interestingly enough, his survey finds that reserves are about 50% funded. However, CAI released the results of their own survey today announcing that America’s housing is healthy and association reserves are 70% funded. OK folks, you can relax, CAI is on the job!
One of the most despicable and abusive practices that has become an acceptable part of the American culture recently is that of fining by residential associations. Why is the HOA industry so enamored with the power to fine? Is it really designed to FORCE people to act, live and behave according to some aesthetic plan concocted by the architects of controlled living? Whatever the real reason, it is a punitive measure that strips a person of his or her assets. A few dollars can soon mushroom to tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars, resulting in the loss of someone’s home. Proponents of this offensive practice wonder how else one can force compliance by a neighbor. But is that really what they are concerned about or do they have ulterior motives? Who benefits? Joining us On The Commons this week is Frank Short. Frank is an old friend of the show, a personal friend and a lawyer. And, as only Frank can, he takes us on a historical trip through court cases that have examined fines. We hear about the issues, the arguments and what the courts at various levels and in different states have ruled. He packs an hour with a comprehensive and chronological look at fines, the courts and the legislatures.