Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Abbott wants "broad-based law" that preempts local regulations | The Texas Tribune

Abbott wants "broad-based law" that preempts local regulations | The Texas Tribune: "CORPUS CHRISTI — As local control battles rage at the Texas Capitol, Gov. Greg Abbott is voicing support for a much more sweeping approach to the issues that have captured headlines.

"As opposed to the state having to take multiple rifle-shot approaches at overriding local regulations, I think a broad-based law by the state of Texas that says across the board, the state is going to preempt local regulations, is a superior approach," Abbott said Tuesday during a Q-and-A session hosted by the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, an Austin-based think tank. 

Such an approach, Abbott added, "makes it more simple, more elegant, but more importantly, provides greater advance notice to businesses and to individuals that you’re going to have the certainty to run your lives." 

Abbott made the remarks in response to a moderator's question about legislation this session that would "prohibit any local ordinance from exceeding the standard set by the state.""


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Because conservative Republicans believe in devolving power to the local level...right up until Democrats control city governments,  and then suddenly Republicans become big believers in having the state governments controlled by Republicans make all the decisions.

Bozeman to study shifting HOA-managed parks to city maintenance district | City | bozemandailychronicle.com

Bozeman to study shifting HOA-managed parks to city maintenance district | City | bozemandailychronicle.com: "In the past, Mayor Carson Taylor has said a parks district could equalize a system where HOA members pay both HOA fees for parks and the city taxes that fund the parks department. It could also help the city pay for maintenance in the new TOP-bond parks, given that the measure didn’t include any funding for that.

According to a study by the Trust for Public Land, Billings and Missoula have already adopted parks maintenance districts. Missoula’s, the study says, levies a property tax assessment costing a typical homeowner roughly $20 a year."

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So Mayor Taylor is looking to relieve HOA residents of double taxation for parks. I assume the tradeoff is that everybody gets to use the HOA formerly-private parks?

Attack of the Killer HOA Fees - Trulia's Blog

Attack of the Killer HOA Fees - Trulia's Blog:

Here is a piece from Trulia (discussed in the post below) that finds that, "Between 2005 and 2015  HOA fees rose 32.4% compared to just 15.1% for the median U.S. home."

D.C. area HOA dues jumped nearly 50 percent between 2005 and 2015 - Curbed DC

D.C. area HOA dues jumped nearly 50 percent between 2005 and 2015 - Curbed DC: "Over the past decade, homeowner association (HOA) dues have skyrocketed across the nation and especially in the D.C. area.

UrbanTurf reported that dues rose 32.4 percent between 2005 and 2015 across the nation. This resulted in the median monthly dues changing from $250 to $331.

In the same amount of time, the median monthly HOA dues in the D.C. area rose from $259 to $387, a 49.4 percent increase."



Here is the Urban Turn piece.

Are condo & HOA bank deposits fully insured by Uncle Sam? - Loop North News

Are condo & HOA bank deposits fully insured by Uncle Sam? - Loop North News:

The answer is more complicated than you might think. Are the association's funds in an account in its own name? Or are they commingled in one big account in the name of the management company, that is way over the dollar limit on federal depository insurance? If so, “If the management company is complying with the FDIC’s rules for pass-through deposit insurance coverage, then each HOA the company is holding funds for in the commingled account would have up to $250,000 of deposit insurance coverage at that bank,” explained the FDIC memorandum.



But what if they are not complying with those rules for pass-through deposit insurance coverage?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Census data show HOAs present few economic benefits to taxpayers, homeowners, local governments – Independent American Communities

Census data show HOAs present few economic benefits to taxpayers, homeowners, local governments – Independent American Communities:

This is an interesting analysis of census data by Deborah Goonan. You can access the original data here.  She tries to get to the truth of several claims by the industry:

"The HOA industry is fond of bragging about the ever-increasing number of association-governed communities and housing units in the U.S., and makes grandiose claims that privatization of services in common interest, association-governed communities provides economic relief to both homeowners and local governments, keeping taxes low and home ownership more affordable."

Her goal is to see if these claims are supported by census data. Her answer is, "no." See what you think. 

But there are other things in the data that are beyond dispute, some corroborated by other data. For example, the overwhelming majority of new housing in this country is in some sort of community association. The National Association of Home Builders did their own survey, and they compare the census findings with their survey as follows:

"When analyzed by intended use, 72 percent of new homes “built for sale or sold” in 2015 were in a community association, up from 63 percent in 2010. Among “contractor-built” homes (built on owner’s lot with owner hiring a builder or a general contractor), 23 percent were within a community or homeowner’s association (up from 21 percent in 2010), and only 12 percent of “owner-built” homes (owner acts as the general contractor) were within a community association, essentially unchanged from the 13 percent reported in 2010. Another source of information on this topic is NAHB’s recent survey on the Typical American Subdivisions. One of the questions asks whether there is a HOA, condo, or other type of community association for the development. Results show that 80 percent of the subdivisions have one of these association types."

Note that community associations are 72% to 80% of new housing built by developers, but only 12 percent of owner-built homes.  So the notion of people voluntarily choosing association living, one of the common myths perpetuated by the industry, is clearly disproved. CIDs are a solution to supply-side problems, not the result of consumer demand. Developers and local governments have taken the choice out of the housing market. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

HOA: S. Meck students skipping class, damaging property | WCNC.com

HOA: S. Meck students skipping class, damaging property | WCNC.com: "CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Residents who live near South Mecklenburg High School say they’re fed up with the recent uptick of students who have been skipping school and roaming their neighborhoods.

“It is a little shorter to come through here than to come on the sidewalk, and so they come through,” says Jill Detweiler, who lives in a neighborhood that backs up to the school.

But some say the students aren’t just roaming, they’re causing property damage. Hamlin Park’s HOA called police March 7 after they say two students bent their perimeter fence causing $150 in damage.

The president of the association later distributed notices to every resident.

“They’re just asking us to be aware of anybody coming through, if anybody’s damaging the fences. Anybody coming through that doesn’t belong here,” says Detweiler."


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Wow. A regular crime wave.




Trump Budget: Air Traffic Control Privatization Proposed | Fortune.com

Trump Budget: Air Traffic Control Privatization Proposed | Fortune.com:



What could possibly go wrong?

The super-rich in London: they live amongst us, but you won’t run into them (if they can help it) | British Politics and Policy at LSE

The super-rich in London: they live amongst us, but you won’t run into them (if they can help it) | British Politics and Policy at LSE

"Of course this is now a world of pronounced inequality and one in which the public realm and social investment are increasingly at stake in a political vision of the world in which trickle-down economics and naked personal ambition are feted by politicians and think-tanks. The result of these inequalities and social conditions is the production of urban anxieties that translate into bunker style homes as well as the opulent display of defensive measures like remotely accessed gated developments, as affluent residents of the street in Lanchester’s novel Capital learn ‘we want what you’ve got’."

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The same is true in the US.

Monday, March 13, 2017

State lawmakers from Miami-Dade submit condo reform law | Miami Herald

State lawmakers from Miami-Dade submit condo reform law | Miami Herald: "After decades of struggling against a condo regulatory system that experts say perpetuates impunity and makes it easy to commit fraud, thousands of condominium owners in Florida may finally see substantial changes in state laws.

Earlier this month, state senators and representatives from Miami-Dade filed a bill that includes 21 reforms to Chapter 718 of the Florida statutes. The reforms seek to correct gaps in the laws and establish criminal penalties for some irregularities in the administration of condos.

The plan classifies falsification of documents, an offense that now carries no legal consequences, as a third degree felony and sets prison terms. It also criminalizes electoral fraud, such as the falsification of signatures on ballots for condo boards of directors, and refusing access to administrative records with the intent to cover up crimes.

The proposal came one year after el Nuevo Herald and Univision 23 published a series of investigative stories on condo abuses in South Florida
, like electoral fraud, falsification of signatures, conflicts of interest, embezzlement and cases of fraudulent bidding.

The series also exposed the lack of enforcement by authorities, from local police departments who refused to investigate allegations of fraud, to widespread negligence at the state agency in charge of enforcing condo laws and regulations and investigating complaints."




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HOAs and condo association private governments are vulnerable to embezzlement and fraud, as well as election fraud and manipulation, because in many situations there is virtually no oversight of their actions. Often only a handful of owners are even paying attention to what the association is doing, there is no public disclosure of finances, and state and local governments rarely take an interest in financial oversight of associations. Obviously there should be criminal penalties for fraud and embezzlement, and local prosecutors should take these cases seriously instead of telling people to to away and file a civil suit. But the threat of criminal prosecution alone won't solve the problems. There need to be other incentives, such as some form of mandatory public disclosure of association finances--not just to people who have already signed a contract to buy, and more free or low-cost education programs for all owners.



Also, we need to keep in mind that the rule of law only works in any society if  99% of the time arrest and prosecution are unnecessary.  Informal norms have to govern people's behavior so that they behave legally without having any contact with enforcement authorities. Most of the time that is true of association directors and officers, but if we want to improve this situation then a lot more sunlight on association finances is necessary.

Where Segregation Has Worsened the Housing Divide - CityLab

Where Segregation Has Worsened the Housing Divide - CityLab:



Over the last two decades, America has become increasingly polarized by both class and geography. As the middle class and its neighborhoods have declined, our nation has increasingly divided into rich and poor, and neighborhoods of concentrated affluence have become surrounded by larger spans of concentrated disadvantage.



This pattern is both reflected and reinforced by housing prices. An analysis released today by the real estate company Trulia finds considerable overlap between racial segregation and polarization of housing values across America’s 100 largest metropolitan areas.

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Gated communities in particular, and CIDs in general, seem to have contributed to income segregation. They are usually targeted narrowly to certain bands of the income distribution, and their enforced uniformity in design, etc., caters to common tastes and lifestyles.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Homeowner and HOA engage in bluebonnet battle | kens5.com

Homeowner and HOA engage in bluebonnet battle | kens5.com

At the Park At Two Creeks they have a homeowners association that says each yard has to be well manicured with no weeds and grass cut below six inches. But one property is causing a bit of a disturbance. "We are passionate about our bluebonnets," said Dee Ann Havely, who has lived in the subdivision for 5.5 years, when her bluebonnet bonanza began. "I planted the first ones. They were just small plants five years ago." But now there are hundreds of them covering much of her front yard..."I think common sense tells you: Sometimes rules are meant to be broken," she said. "And I think these flowers should stay."

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Interesting philosophy of rule enforcement. Her "common sense" tells her that sometimes rules are meant to be broken, and by amazing coincidence the rule she has broken is the one that is meant to be broken.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Watch young children crash dad’s important Skype interview with the BBC | WGN-TV

Watch young children crash dad’s important Skype interview with the BBC | WGN-TV:

Best BBC interview ever.

HOA buys personal alarms for kids following attempted abduction - Story | WOFL

HOA buys personal alarms for kids following attempted abduction - Story | WOFL:

"The community is not waiting for law enforcement to increase their sense of security.  Instead, they are footing the bill for each kid to have a personal alarm. "We've raised over $2,000 in the past couple of days," said parent Stephanie Lerret.  "It's a dual-button switch where the student has to hit both buttons to activate if they're in an uncomfortable situation."
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I can't tell from the article whether or  not this headline is correct. "HOA buys" suggests that the association is using their funds to buy the alarms. But the body of the article seems to suggest that parents, or the association BOD, are raising money from voluntary contributions and buying the alarms with those funds. The latter approach seems more likely to me, given that using money from assessments for an expense like this could be questioned.