Sara Benson and Debbie Goonan


As regular as clockwork, the Community Associations Institute, CAI, comes out with an annual survey, that, incredibly, year after year confirms their assertion that homeowners in condos, HOAs and co-ops are overwhelmingly happy with their lot in life.  Now, I don’t doubt that many homeowners are pleased and think they got a great deal but I have always questioned CAI’s numbers.  We know there are major issues and problems that grab the headlines, yet these problems fail to make a dent in these annual surveys.  When owners become homeless through no fault of their own, are they likely to be tickled pink with the association?  So many things do not add up.  So, what is really going on in the homes of American homeowners?  Are they really as happy and thrilled as we are led to believe they are?  Are the problems just “isolated incidents” and not worth worrying about?  To find out how homeowners really feel about their HOA housing, the Coalition for Community Housing Policy in the Public Interest (CHPPI) a not for profit, independent organization without a vested interest in HOAs, decided to ask them.  

Please take the survey

Sara Benson and Deborah Goonan join us On The Commons.  Sara is a real estate broker in Chicago and the co author of the book “Escaping Condo Jail: The keys to navigating risks and surviving perils of the “carefree” community lifestyle”.  Deborah is a very active blogger and a seemingly tireless researcher on all the latest news and events taking place in association controlled housing.  Her blog is called Independent American Communities.  We talk to Sara and Deborah about the survey and the reason for having another one.  We talk about the need to find out what really is going on.  We are following up on the responses from the last survey CHPPI took.  Based on the responses it seemed prudent to dig in a little deeper and find out just how much homeowners really know and understand about the association they live in and are financially responsible for.  It is fascinating to start putting the pieces of the puzzle together and to perhaps find the missing pieces.  Tune in and please take the survey, send it to your friends and relatives who live in associations and please ask them to also reply to the survey


Sara Benson


Deborah Goonan



Andy Ostrowski


Misinformation is all over the place, especially when it comes to HOAs and the loss of individual and property rights and freedoms.  Somehow a hand full of industry special interests have been able to convince legislators, judges and real people that millions of Americans have knowingly and willingly given up Constitutional rights and protections.  Try as I might, I simply can’t understand, or accept, that seemingly intelligent people would believe such outrageously false statements without question.

When faced with so much misinform and so many outright lies, it then is incumbent on us to set the record straight. But how?  It is all about getting the message out.  The message and the messengers have to be factual, unemotional and credible.  Long rants, crying uncontrollably and obfuscating the facts with gibberish will get us exactly where we are.  Nowhere.  Maybe it is time to rethink our strategy and our messengers.

Andy Ostrowski joins us On The Commons.  Andy is a former attorney who has been working on court reform in Pennsylvania.  He ran unsuccessfully for Public office in an effort to right the many wrongs he has seen.  Along the way he stumbled into a quagmire of property rights horrors and abuses in condos and HOAs in his neck of the words in Central Pennsylvania.  He added those issues to the long list of injustices he was determined to fight.  He has been working on getting his Law License reinstated and in the meantime he started hosting his own radio show where he included a number of property rights advocates and activists.  The show is currently on hiatus but he hopes to bring it back soon.  We talk to Andy about the problems and the challenges of setting the record straight on so many of the issues.  We also discuss the need for credibility when getting that message out.  Credibility?  Tune in to find out.



Jill Schweitzer


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  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.



Donna Fossum


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.


Free speech unless you live in a high rise condo.