Some people describe the “American Dream” as home ownership. After all, we all want a place to call our own, a place that reflects our personalities, provides shelter, a safe haven, a place completely and totally under our control. Like almost everything else in association controlled housing the dream is a lie. These days everything associated with a home seems to be based on deliberate misinformation that is repeated nonstop to the point where everyone believes it. Why not? They have heard the same lies for a couple of generations, it has to be true, right?
Not so fast.
Deborah Goonan joins us On The Commons. Deborah is a prolific, analytical and detailed blogger. Her blog, Independent American Communities is a comprehensive study of what is going on in the world of association living. Today we debunk some of the more often told lies surrounding HOAs. Probably the biggest, and potentially most damaging whopper, is that HOAs protect property values. Citing from a white paper referencing various studies conducted about HOA restrictions and property values we learn what common sense has always told us. Having burdened your house with covenants, rules, regulations, “grass police” and all the other atrocities that are part and parcel of associations, we then turn to the physical structure of these houses made of “cardboard and scotch tape” and what we discover there is truly alarming. We talk a little about vinyl siding and Low e windows and we urge you to ask yourself whether this can possibly be “The American Dream” or is it more like the American nightmare?
Why is it that the single largest asset you own comes with more restrictions and controls placed on it than any other item you have? Own a car? You can choose the size, make, model, color, you can add seat covers, additional side mirrors to enhance your vision of your surroundings, add bumper stickers about your child’s scholastic achievements, your favorite teams, your pets, places you have visited or any other message that is near and dear to your heart. No approval needed from anyone for the color of your vehicle or permission to add more side mirrors. Permission for a bumper sticker announcing your pride in your children’ scholastic and athletic achievements? After all, isn’t it all part of your right to free speech? You own it, you control it. So why is it that your home, arguably the largest expenditure you have, the one item that reflects who you are and what you like more than anything else, is so burdened with rules, regulations, threats, fines and yes, foreclosure because you violated someone else’s aesthetic sensibilities. Whatever happened to being king and queen of your own castle?
Bill Davis joins us On The Commons. Bill, a Texas attorney whose legal practice includes representing homeowners in HOAs has a unique insight into HOA problems. He has seen the bad and the ugly from all sides. We talk to Bill about what makes living in an HOA such an awful experience for so many homeowners and how the association and their legal council seem to have unfettered power over the owners. We also talk about the “carrot” or the BIG LIE that convinces housing consumers that there might be some benefit to giving up so much control over their lives and homes by subjecting themselves to an HOA. We talk about THE BIG LIE, the assertion that HOAs protect and enhance property values. What exactly are property values? How do HOAs protect these values when so many homeowners are losing their homes and their fortunes to the HOA boards, managers and their attorneys? And just what is the value of homeownership in modern day America?
Will candidates for public office be able to come and talk to you?
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.
Wikipedia describes The Tragedy of the Commons as “a situation in a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting or spoiling that resource through their collective action.” But isn’t that just human nature? Don’t we normally make choices and decisions based on our immediate needs and what benefits us? And isn’t that especially true for people who are generally struggling to make ends meet? Can the current model of HOAs and condos function properly for all?
Tyler Berding joins us On The Commons. Tyler is the principle attorney and founder of Berding-Weil, a California law firm. Tyler represents residential associations and has long been concerned about the lack of adequate reserve funding, construction defects, condo conversions and the flawed HOA and condo model. He is particularly concerned about the buildings as they near the end of their useful lifespans. What happens to the buildings that need to be refurbished? What happens to the owners and their assets? Who pays to make the units habitable if the reserves are inadequate to fund it all? Can retirees on fixed incomes and low income owners afford massive special assessments to cover the shortfall? What Tyler is talking about is the classic “tragedy of the commons”. Tyler shares with us his presentation for a summit next month. Tyler also has a blog called Condo Issues with lots of thought provoking blogs covering all things condo.