As I said in my opening statement, Caroline is a lady who I wish lived closer. She has a way of connecting current events with history. Today’s show is no exception. I have been asking myself, whatever happened to Miss Manners? Would life in HOAs be more tolerable if people treated each other with respect? Where and when did we go off the rails? And who is responsible? Are children being taught manners at home by their parents? That’s who taught me how to behave and corrected me every time I strayed from the straight and narrow. I was fortunate; good manners were important to my parents, But what happens when the parents are rude and don’t know how to behave in polite company? I told a story about trying to reach a friend who was staying in a local hotel but was treated rudely by the person who interfaced with the public and potential guests and who hung up on me several times. No, I was NEVER rude to the staff. And Caroline and I also talk about current court decisions. Does everything tie together? How do we return to a kinder, gentler society? Do tune in to today’s show. I would love to hear what you think. Thanks.
Who is responsible for ensuring our safety on the local roads? Who plans how many stop signs are used on the roads and makes sure pedestrians are safe? Who decides the speed limits and fines and collects the fines when a driver exceeds the speed limit? What happens to that money? If you have never really thought about this and, like me, just presumed everything was being handled responsibly, I believe it is time to rethink that trusting attitude. Maybe it is time for some adult supervision, or we may face a tragic situation.
We recently had an unfortunate and tragic situation in my homeowners’ association, which could and should have been avoided. My neighborhood is divided by a four-lane road with half of the homes on one side and the other half on the other side. The high school that all the kids go to is on the other side of that road, as are all the amenities like the pools and tennis courts. Several years ago, that road was widened from two to four lanes. Someone from the county board of supervisors visited one of our homeowner meetings to inform us that because the situation was too dangerous for a crossing guard, they had to take the crossing guard away, and the kids will have to cross themselves! Every suggestion to ensure the safety of the children was met with an equally stupid reason why that wouldn’t work. They all had to do with their own similarly stupid rules. Thank God we were incident-free for many years, but our lucky streak didn’t last forever. Recently a resident in his 50s was hit while he was crossing in the crosswalk and killed. The driver, a woman in her 30’s, I believe, apparently was not speeding, texting, or driving drunk, but she nonetheless hit and killed the pedestrian, and that is something she will have to live with for the rest of her life.
Caroline Douglas joins us On The Commons to talk about this incident. As always, Caroline comes up with so many angles and possibilities that I hadn’t thought of or considered. I’m always grateful to her for being a willing guest and providing her knowledge and expertise to us all. Always a pleasure to have you on Caroline.
For the past several decades, states have required that housing consumers, buying into a mandatory membership housing association, be provided what is commonly called a “disclosure package.” Some states provide a list of what the package must contain. Much of the information is accurate but confusing and makes little sense. Even some attorneys have a hard time trying to decipher some sections. Realtors and some settlement attorneys shrug off any questions as “you agree to pay so much a month to get trash and snow removed,” where applicable. No bells go off. “HOAs protect property values” has become such a common notion that buyers do not dig any further and accept it on face value. Intuitively that statement makes no sense whatsoever but, absent proof to the contrary, people still believe it.
Leon Robertson joins us On the Commons this week. Professor Robertson, a retired Yale University professor, discovered HOAs like the rest of us, by buying into one and finding out that it was nothing like he expected. Being a professor and very thorough, he started researching HOAs, land records, tracked sales, and wrote a paper titled Correlation of Homeowner Associations and Inferior Property Value Appreciation. After he crunched the numbers and analyzed the research projects, the result was that far from increasing and enhancing property values, HOAs diminished property values. Perhaps, in fairness and honesty, housing consumers should be given a copy of Professor Robertson’s paper before signing on the dotted line.
Based on his experience, Professor Robertson wrote a book called The HOA Murders – A Novel of Suspense. I have it on my kindle and can’t wait to dive into it. Don’t miss the show with Professor Robertson,
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Is it all about power or is money really at the root of all evil? Or is it a combination of both? I am of course taking about this notion of a fourth layer of government or, as they are more commonly referred to, mandatory membership homeowner associations. Whatever the reason for their proliferation, consumer choice is not one of them and consumer acceptance is a myth. Municipal mandates ensure a steady stream of tax free dollars flowing into the public coffers while power hungry board members are always on hand to enforce alleged rules and regulations. Let’s not forget the special interests behind the scenes orchestrating everything. For them it is definitely power, money and greed. So what is a homeowner to do once the honeymoon with their new house is over? They usually hit the internet and start searching for a friendly voice out there and the they do, they are like to find my guest.
Ward Lucas joins us On The Commons. Ward is an award winning TV anchor from Denver, Colorado who has the wonderful ability to see the humor in so many things including his own battles with his HOA. Now retired as an anchor, the heart of a journalist still beats hard in him. He first wrote a book called “Neighbors at War; The creepy case against your homeowners association. That was followed by a blog by the same name where he talks about some of the daily disasters in associations to grab the headlines. His second book is more of a personal story that allows the reader to glimpse the family life that has to be the reason for his wonderful sense of humor. Even the title is fun, “Get this Mother Published. The wacky world of a recovering army brat family”. And for all his fans, stay tuned because book 3 is in the works. We’ll talk about the books, his web site, some of the stories from his Neighbors at War book but mostly about what is happening in HOA land across the country. Tune in as we wander around the whacky world of controlled living, American Style.
Storytelling has always been an important and effective way of getting a point across. HOAs are a very rich source for stories. How better to warn housing consumers of the abuses that could be lurking right around the corner from that perfect house that feels so very much like home if you can’t tell your story? But stories, for the sake of a story is not enough, it has to be believable and the story teller has to be credible and that entails a little work.
Ward Lucas joins us On The Commons. Ward, now retired, is an Emmy winning TV anchor, investigative reporter and story teller “par excellence”. He is also a published author. His first book, “Neighbors at War”, is, as you might guess, all about the abuses and sheer insanity that is so common in HOA controlled neighborhoods. He has just published his third book, “Sometimes ya Gotta Ride the Elephant” where he takes us through his journey as an investigative reporter and TV anchor and lets us into the secrets of how he managed to get the full story for his reports, without leaving any loose ends. It’s a fun read with several lessons for us budding story tellers. All three of his books are available on his website, Ward Lucas.com
I seem to zip through life at breakneck speeds, taking most things for granted and never really thinking about the reason we do things any particular way. Oh, once in a while I ask myself, “What were they ever thinking?” when I run into something a little strange. However, when things are working well the farthest thought is to wonder why it works. It is so much easier to start looking at things that don’t make sense and figure out how to improve it.
And for a show whose sole focus is property rights, that was a little short sighted. How can we protect ownership and rights without knowing how to properly define the property in question? That is one those things most of us have always taken for granted.
Kenneth Ditkowsky joins us On The Commons. Ken is an attorney in Chicago who, when he was fresh out of law school, full of self confidence and a can-do attitude found himself on the ground floor of redefining property boundaries and ultimately changing skylines in cities across the country. Maybe even the world? We’ll talk to Ken about the Prudential Building, the first high rise in Chicago and the hundreds of pages of legal speak explaining the ownership structure. Ken and his partner accepted the challenge and simplified it, reducing the document down to a more manageable size. n the process they paved the way for high-rise residential buildings to be built and ultimately changing the face of the Chicago. We’ll talk about all the things most of us take for granted and never give a second thought to. We’ll learn about different ways to determine the legal boundaries of a piece of property and find out what happens when mother nature decides to ” shift” the things we take for granted. I was spellbound as I listened to Ken. Tune in for a fascinating show.
Tell us your stories in your own words
Years ago, I asked Linc Cummins why he and his colleagues pushed the idea of HOAs so hard. What was their incentive and what were they thinking? Linc is one of the three founders of CAI so he has been involved with building HOAs from the very beginning. His answer surprised me. He explained that we were becoming a more transient society and as we moved from one place to the next, we left behind friends and family and in the process lost our support systems. He said he envisioned creating a “community” where people worked together, helped each other, became a family and formed that support network. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the exact opposite seems to have happened. Far from working together as a community, the HOA has created different classes of people, those with power and authority and those without. Rather than community, we have “war zones” and instead of a network of support, we have a divided group of people living in a dysfunctional development.
Neil Brooks joins us On the Commons. Neil could be the poster child of what happens when this gang of neighborhood thugs band together against one of their neighbors. Except Neil is one of many poster children across the country who have suffered unspeakable harm in a system with no checks and balances. Instead of creating a sense of family who would support each other, Neil’s neighbors ganged up against him. We learn about Neil’s disability and find out why he was not able to find the peace and quiet he needed to recuperate. The problems with his neighbors exacerbated his medical problems. He is currently facing a fairly grim future. We talk about his experiences in particular and the problems in HOAs in general. Can HOAs ever become the nurturing extended community Linc and friends envisioned all those years ago or are they destined to be dysfunctional enclaves to be avoided at all costs?
Gone are the days when being a property owner meant having dominion over your property. With the imposition of mandatory membership residential associations and the restrictive covenants that are attached to the deed, homeowners have lost some of the most basic and fundamental rights of the use and enjoyment of their homes. Those restrictions range from something as basic and mundane as a choice of plants, to the approved shade of white for the interior window blinds to something a little more serious like having a fence to keep children and pets safe and even to having children and pets at all.
Are restrictive covenants and neighborhood Nazis the only threat to a property owner’s right to ownership?
Dr. Bonner Cohen joins us On The Commons this week. Dr. Cohen is a Senior Fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, a position he has had since 2002. He is also a Senior Policy Analyst with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow; and the author of The Green Wave. Dr. Cohen takes us on a trip down memory lane and reminds us of the advantages and opportunities we enjoyed in the past and compares them to the way we live today. He explains how and why, slowly, very slowly, rights, education, health, wealth and the way we live have been adversely affected. He very clearly helps us follow the laws, regulations and policies that have stripped us of things we once enjoyed and took for granted. The changes were gradual, the results were by design and we never noticed them until they were here. Is it too late or can we wrest control of our world back from the special interests?
There is a huge difference between the way businesses and governments operate. Businesses typically keep their eye on the bottom line and minimize unnecessary expenses. If there is a cost effective way of doing something, they’ll find it and use it. Governments, on the other hand, only seem to care about the size of their departments. The more staff they have, the greater their budgets and the higher their salaries. To help get to that point they rely on regulations, red tape and more staff to oversee useless rules. And the money to pay for all this waste? No worries, just raise taxes. I knew all that so when I first encountered HOAs and was told that certain services were provided “privately” the only thing I found alarming was that the taxes were 3 times as high as they had been where I had come from where everything was included, in fact the HOA assessments were higher than my property taxes had been.
My long held beliefs about the efficiency and cost effectiveness of businesses began to unravel as I watched a “privatized government” at work. These creations of the special interests enjoyed all the benefits of the unaccountable governments while masquerading as efficient businesses. This new model was forced on owners in residential associations, be they condos, co-ops, HOAs or any of the newer concoctions that seem to creep into our daily vocabulary. It embodies all the worst characteristics of both businesses and governments.
Chuck Welsh joins us On The Commons. Chuck, an avid boater, a US Naval Officer for a number of years and a former developer bought a brand new pre-construction condo in a gated development in Florida. The design for the property came complete with plans for a marina. The entire project sounded like it was designed with Chuck in mind. A beautiful unit, amazing views, room for his boat and the promise of a carefree lifestyle with property values soaring through the roof. Isn’t that what we are all promised? Regular listeners and readers of this blog know that when it comes to housing in the US, things are never quite as smooth or problem free as one might expect. Sadly that was the case with Chuck’s ideal condo. All the elements of his dream home were there – in a dream – the problem was that the nightmares started when Chuck woke up. We’ll talk to Chuck about what happened that led to 10 years of his life that was far from “carefree” and his condo – well, even with an upswing in property values, ended up costing him a lot of money, not to mention being dragged through the courts for four years. And that private marina that was the icing on his cake? Well, that didn’t work out so well either. Tune in for all the details as well as a fascinating discussion on the future of privatized residential governments.
Tell us your stories in your own words