Deborah Goonan

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?

Deborah’s research paper is available Here:   Topics to cover with Shu Bartholomew


3 thoughts on “Deborah Goonan”

  1. > Deborah’s research paper is available Here:

    I’m not a statistician nor professional pollster, so take the following with the appropriate grain of salt.

    I. One objection I have to C.A.I. surveys is that they use the term “community association”. Do people even know what that is? I never heard of an H.O.A. corporation described as a “community association” until I became involved — not by choice — in the issue five years ago. I would suggest concurrent surveys, but use the term “H.O.A.”, or even “H.O.A. corporation”, instead of “community association”, and see if the results differ.

    II. “What do you think your community should do when residents neglect to pay their assessment” omits the fact that the “priority of payments” scam, which is an extremely common accounting practice in the H.O.A. industry, conflates “assessments” with “fines” and “fees”, including attorney fees and disputed fines.

    III. 42% have heard of the Community Associations Institute?! In a nation where surveys consistently show that large portions of the population cannot even name their own elected representatives, the claim that 42% have heard of the C.A.I., and that 21% have a “favorable” view of the C.A.I., is an extremely large red flag.

    IV. Ask owners something like “Why did you agree to make everything you own collateral to whatever debts and liabilities your H.O.A. corporation creates?”. Follow up question: “You didn’t know about that?”

    V. In 2007, Service Magic conducted a survey of 3,000 customers. While I’m no more qualified to critique their methodology than I am the C.A.I.’s, the results were very different:

    08% think they’re great
    16% think they’re OK (24% positive)
    21% think they’re a minor annoyance
    48% think they’re a major headache (69% negative)
    07% gave no opinion
    19% said they “have been in what they call a ‘war’ with their HOA”
    54% said they “would rather live with a ‘sloppy neighbor’ than deal with an HOA.”
    78% said they might consider NOT buying a home under the jurisdiction of an HOA

    source: Kathy Price-Robinson. “Two-Thirds “Annoyed” With HOA, Survey Says”. Los Angeles Times (blog). Sept. 05, 2007.

    19% of 60 million residents is over 10 million Americans who “have been in what they call a ‘war’ with their HOA” — an astoundingly large constituency that our policy makers are ignoring.

    What’s I find surprising is that, given the numbers of people and amount of money involved, how little survey data there is of H.O.A. residents, or studies of H.O.A.s. The housing market collapse that began in 2006 was the perfect laboratory to test the claim that “H.O.A.s protect property values”.

    VI. Of course, my favorite question to ask would be: “Would you like the right to opt-out of your H.O.A. corporation without having to give up your home?”. Follow-up: “Would you do so if you could?”

  2. SHU BARTHOLOMEW [ 03:25 ] : The pitfalls. I think one of the biggest pitfalls, and I think of one of the biggest problems we have, is that there is so little understanding of what an H.O.A. really is. [ 03:38 ]

    DEBORAH GOONAN [ 06:20 ] : “Home owner leaders” are the board members who represent the interest of the corporate H.O.A. That’s not the members themselves. People need to realize that the H.O.A. is actually a corporation and a separate entity. [ 06:35 ]


    On October 02, 2010, Tyler Berding told you that

    “Sometimes it’s hard to divorce the interests of the owners from the interests of the association. Because by definition the association are the owners.”

    I expect something like that from an industry apologist. But I’ve heard similar sentiments expressed by people on “our” side. “The association are the owners” is about as true as “the parasite is the host”. The only reason that “it’s hard to divorce the interests” is becasue the parasite has done an effective job of attaching itself to the host; e.g., the facehugger from the 1979 science fiction movie Alien. That “the H.O.A. is actually a corporation and a separate entity” is something that even many people on “our” side fail to understand the importance of. As Evan McKenzie has written (March 02, 2013):

    But then we descend from the clouds into the real world of association affairs and the actual relationship between the lawyer, the association, and the owners, which David Bendoff accurately and honesty describes. When an owner tries to get information from the association lawyer about anything specific, the lawyer refuses. Why? Because he or she represents the association, which is a corporation with a separate legal existence, and not the owners. Going a step further, as David Bendoff explains, in reality representing the association means representing the board of directors, because the association is just a fictitious legal entity. The directors are the real client. This is just the nature of corporation organization, and it is important to understand. That’s why I wish the media would stop uncritically repeating all the warm and fuzzy community/town meeting propaganda. This is a business arrangement.

    If “the association are the owners” were true, then attorney-client privilege would include the home owners. It does not, even though the home owners are paying the attorney’s fees. Any H.O.A. attorney who claims to represent the interests of the home owners is lying. Period.

    There are other implications of “corporate personhood” for H.O.A. corporations that I may or may not comment about later in this thread, time permitting.

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