The tragic news from Surfside Florida has the world stunned. How could such a thing happen? What caused a condo tower to collapse in the middle of the night? Mayors and local politicians are quick to go on camera and assure all that something similar could never happen in THEIR town. Why not? How can we be sure that a condominium like Champlain towers won’t just collapse in the middle of the night again? Why did the tower collapse killing so many people sleeping peacefully in their beds? What caused the building to pancake? There has been a lot of conjecture on what caused it, but so far, nothing definitive. Water intrusion, climate change, rusty rebar, and salt have been cited as possibilities. Maybe there is some truth to all of these causes, and perhaps a combination of them. But we need to know for sure, if possible. We need to know how to prevent something awful like this from happening again.
Evan McKenzie joins us On The Commons.
Evan is a law professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He studies urban politics, land use law and policy, and common interest housing developments, including condominiums, HOAs, and housing cooperatives. He is the author of several books and articles about common interest housing, he is the media’s go-to guy for comments on any housing issue that grabs the headlines. I am honored to have him On The Commons again. Who better to share his thoughts and ideas for the collapse of and how to prevent something like this from happening again? There are preventive steps that can and must be taken to ensure there are no repeat performances. Tune in and listen to what Evan has to say. As always, his ideas are full of common sense and easy to follow and understand. You won’t want to miss it.
Evan’s first book Privatopia is a classic. Below is a link to his second book Beyond Privatopia. Both books are available on Amazon.
The song, “Both sides now” has been on my mind a lot since talking to my guest. Reading the lyrics, I understand why. The lyrics pretty much sum up the gist of this interview. I always find it interesting that when it comes to housing, two people can look at the same problems and issues and come with a different point of view, sort of like the lyrics in the song that keeps playing over and over in my mind. Angel hair, ice cream castles and feather canyons are in the clouds but then the clouds only block the sun and rain and snow on everyone. Maybe it is time to look at condos and HOAs from “both sides now”.
Vicki MacHale joins us On The Commons. Vicki is the co-owner of Ark Management in California with 23 years experience under her belt. She has seen lots of clouds, especially when it comes to the way HOAs and condos are managed and has written about her thoughts and observations. In a recent article titled Emissaries of Change She has also written a letter to Governor Jerry Brown about her concerns for underfunded associations and the largely inadequate legislation that is mainly a knee jerk reaction to a headline grabbing incident. Vicki and I both agree on the problems and the issues but we do tend to look at “both sides” in this interview. I learned some things from my chat with Vicki and believe it is time for all concerned to come together and look at “both sides now”.
Following the Florida condo collapse, the universal cure seems to be to fund the reserves. Making sure there are adequate funds for the necessary repairs is a no-brainer. I had long advocated funding the reserves but have always been surprised when homeowners quickly informed me that I was wrong. Some even claimed they would prefer a special assessment to take care of any problems. That approach never appealed to me. However, it is important to hear all the concerns.
Bill Davis joins us today. Bill, a Texas attorney and a frequent guest on On The Commons, sees the big picture and can explain what we are missing. While making sure we fund the reserves, that is only part of the solution. Please tune and take a look at the big picture. It is not always quite as simple as it sounds. Be sure to tune in.
Keeping up with all the changes in America’s residential developments can be quite daunting. Over the years the idea of homeownership seems to have evolved from being true ownership, with all the inherent rights and privileges afforded to the owner to being something more akin to that of a junior partner in some business endeavor. The concept of rights and privileges are getting somewhat confusing to Americans and there appears to be an acceptance that a home must be subject to the whims and fantasies of others. I find that terrifying.
Deborah Goonan joins us On The Commons. Like many homeowners in mandatory membership homeowner associations, Debbie ran into problems so she did a little research to try to figure out what was happening. Fortunately for all of us she is still digging and discovering new twists, scams and stories and is sharing what she discovers on her blog Independent American Communities. Her collection of daily posts, articles, comments and information is impressive and invaluable. We talk to Deborah about the issues that plague developments from poorly designed infrastructure to inadequate parking and the complete lack of supervision from the building phase to every day living and how this complicated alliance of different interests in what should be a simple form of homeownership affects the owners and their pocket books. If we learn anything it is that things aren’t always what they seem to be so do a little digging and ask questions.
They don’t build things like they used to. The Pyramids of Egypt have been around since approximately 2700 BC, that’s almost 5000 years. I wonder how much maintenance has been done on them over the centuries? Our cardboard and scotch tape buildings fail after a few years and will probably not be a source of amazement in a century. In fact, at this rate, most of them will not be still standing and that’s with maintenance. How times they are a changing!
Tyler Berding joins us On The Commons this week. Tyler is a founding partner of Berding and Weil, a law firm in California specializing in construction defect litigation and condominiums. He has long warned us of the perils we are facing by not being adequately funded for multi unit housing. Tyler also maintains a blog called, not surprisingly, Condo Issues. Tyler talks about a couple of recent tragic building failures in California that claimed the lives of several people. He explains why he believes these buildings are failing and what can be done about it. He also tells us about one bill he wrote that he thinks might help in the future. But at no time does he promise us that we will be building and living in anything that is remotely as well built as the Pyramids built by the ancient Egyptians. Take another listen.