Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Mandatory water restrictions for California

HOA boards take heed. You will allow your inmates to let their lawns turn brown. You will allow lawns to be turned into drought resistant landscape and even hardscape. At least until California makes up its 11 trillion gallon water deficit. And yes, you read that right.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Drones present opportunity, challenge for community associations - Chicago Tribune

Drones present opportunity, challenge for community associations - Chicago Tribune

Drones in the hands of condo and HOA boards?  What could possibly go wrong?

"In the not-too-distant future, community associations could launch camera-equipped, unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, for many routine tasks. They will be able to examine buildings for leaks and damage, check on the performances of contractors and find illegal barbecue grills on upper balconies."

TEPCO not paying for Fukushima cleanup

This is how capitalism works.  Corporations make profits and get to keep them.   Corporations generate huge "externalities," meaning massive costs that hurt others, but those costs get socialized.  In this case, the gigantic utility company that caused the Fukushima catastrophe--which is far from over--has fobbed off the cleanup cost onto  local governments.

"TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Tokyo Electric Power Co. has only shouldered 2 percent of the 76.1 billion yen ($638.8 million) spent on radiation decontamination operations conducted by municipality offices since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, Environment Ministry officials said Sunday. The operator of the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has effectively refused to cover the costs of removing radioactive soil and other waste incurred by local governments in areas affected by the disaster, saying it is confirming whether such payments are required by law."

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Homeowners face HOA fines for children playing in driveway and on sidewalk

No, really.  It's true.  Having solved all other problems, this HOA has decided to prevent children from playing.  Why would anybody, with children or not, live in a place like this?

 "Some Chula Vista homeowners contacted Team 10, furious that their homeowners association is fining them if their children are caught playing outside on the driveway or sidewalk. Under the Agave and Saguaro HOA's rules, there are no wheeled toys -- including, but not limited to, bicycles, scooters, rollerblades, skateboards or roller skates -- allowed to be ridden in the HOA's common areas. Common areas include driveways, sidewalks and streets in the complex. According to the property manager, it's for safety reasons, but resident Karen Deviolini said, "You're fined because you live in a place where kids can't be kids."

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Is suburban sprawl stifling the US economy?

This Vox article references a number of studies that suggest the answer may be "yes."

What is the most private city in the world?

London?  Dubai?  The new cities in the US that are comprised of private, gated communities?

"The word “private” is derived from the ancient Greek word idiotes, which means somebody who does not participate in public life. In ancient Greece, private life was confined to the home; the public, democratic life of citizens took place in the polis or city, and in the agora or assembly. The contemporary gated community, which focuses on privatising the experience of home as much as possible, fits well within this classical definition of private. There are literally millions of people living in gated communities: they have become the model of choice in the many societies around the world that are subject to extreme wealth inequalities."

How Wall Street used swaps to get rich at the expense of cities

Thanks to a helpful correspondent for flagging this.  Since the late 1970s cities have been trying to find ways to compensate for lost revenue sources.  The property tax revolt, suburbanization, loss of federal grants in aid, globalization of the economy, and other forces have left many cities in  precarious condition. CIDs are one of those compensation strategies.  And here is another one:  cities are getting hooked up with Wall Street investment banks that promise to create gains by engaging in interest rate swaps.  For example,  a city has outstanding fixed rate municipal bonds, and an investment bank--Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, or another one of these financial vampires--proposes to swap them for variable rate bonds that are linked to LIBOR or some other index, that pays the bond holders a lower interest rate.  Sounds good, right?  Except that local governments have been known to lose  a fortune doing it.  Chicago, led by former Wall Streeter and now Mayor Rahm Emanuel,  is in deep on these swaps.  Emanuel thinks he's smarter than everybody. But the swaps aren't turing out  to be such a good deal. Here's a detailed article taking the whole thing apart.

And for the worst case scenario, consider Jefferson County, Alabama.   After a series of swaps orchestrated by J. P. Morgan to pay for a new sewer system, they went bankrupt.   Until Detroit, it  was the largest local government bankruptcy in US history.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Condo requiring DNA samples of all pets so they can test their poop!

"The Rotunda, a condominium building in Tyson's Corner, Virginia has implemented a policy in which all new pet owners who are moving into the building will be required to have their animal's mouths swabbed in the presence of a building authority. If pet waste is discovered outside of the building, the waste will then be tested and matched up to the guilty animal's DNA."
Actually this nonsense has been going on for some time.  Obviously people should clean up after their dogs, but somehow in my HOA-free neighborhood everybody nearly always does.  Now there are companies peddling this silly service and of course all the costs end up falling on the owner of the miscreant dog.  Increasingly life for the American middle class is one boondoggle after another--red light cameras, usurious loans, grifting cable TV companies, fake calls threatening IRS suits, and of course chiseling condo associations and HOAs.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Garden City movement aims at accreditation

The Garden City movement was the inspiration for common interest housing. Ebenezer Howard, a 19th century utopian thinker, wanted to build new, self-sufficient cities on undeveloped land that would allow people to have  the best of city and country living in one place under a benevolent managerial government.. Two of these cities, Letchworth and Welwyn, were built, and the idea came to the US, where real estate developers took it in a differert direction. I tell that story in my first book on HOAs.  But the Garden City Movement still exists, as evidenced by this artcle concerning an attempt to create accreditation for "real" Garden Cities.  They even have a Letchworth Declaration that lays out the governing principles.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Colorado Lawmakers Debate Construction Defects Bill CBS Denver

Colorado Lawmakers Debate Construction Defects Bill  CBS Denver

The quest for the waterproof condo continues. Hint: solutions aren't likely to be found in state legislatures.

4 found guilty in Las Vegas homeowner association fraud trial -

4 found guilty in Las Vegas homeowner association fraud trial - LAS VEGAS (AP) -- A federal jury found a Las Vegas lawyer and three co-defendants guilty of conspiracy and wire fraud in a sweeping scheme to fraudulently control homeowners' associations and steer business to favored contractors and attorneys.
Breaking news in Las Vegas HOA corruption scandal. Film and perp walk at 10. Cuff 'em, Danno.

HOA Rules - Why is it Necessary in Home Buying

HOA Rules - Why is it Necessary in Home Buying

A couple of people flagged this recently, from a 2010 on line article in the International Business Times that extols the virtues of HOAs:

"Each homeowners association has covenants, conditions and restrictions or also known as CCR. They are normally related to deed restrictions or restrictive covenants. All things pointed out in the agreement will firmly be imposed to homeowners in order to maintain the property as well as the value of the community. It restricts the building materials to be utilized in constructing homes and the kind of home upgrades allowed. Moreover, they set the allowable number of occupants per house, the kind of pets that are permitted and the race of persons who can stay in the community." [my emphasis]


In my first book on HOAs I devoted considerable effort to documenting the close connection between HOAs and enforcement of race restrictive covenants from about 1900 to 1950.  Whenever industry advocates recount the glorious history of HOAs they jump straight from Athenian Democracy, the "golden hills of Rome" and the New England town meeting to the present, and somehow manage to leave out the fact that for decades in the US, one of the main purposes of HOAs was to keep African-Americans from moving into white neighborhoods.