Friday, April 01, 2005

The Cincinnati Post - Couple sues homebuilder citing urine-soaked walls
Bradley and Margaret Parker's version of the American dream was ruined by subcontractors who urinated in the unfinished house, a Tuesday lawsuit alleges.

A new kind of construction defect. Here come the lawyers.
Garden Gnome Liberation Front strikes again
Lyon - About 100 garden gnomes were "liberated" from front gardens in the French city of Lyon and placed in a park next to a motorway, police officials reported on Thursday. "They were all standing there with their faces to the motorway, watching the traffic speed past," a police statement said.

I suspect a renegade HOA president.
Thoughts after taping CNN "Open House"
The show will be broadcast on Saturday, 4/2 at 9:30 eastern time. What does that mean in other time zones? I don't know. This was "taped live," which means the show is taped in its entirety and then broadcast later without editing. I guess they can show it at any time they want, in any time zone.

There are three sections. The first is on whether there is a housing price "bubble," and it is a provocative one that I want to listen to again. (I say listen because I was in a different city--Chicago-- listening through an earpiece. The hose, Gerri Willis, was in New York. I don't know where the two guests were.) The HOA segment is second. It starts with a horror story, then a comment from (if I recognized the voice correctly) Frank Rathbun of CAI, and then they go to me for the rest of the segment. I thought Gerri Willis did a good job of moving it along, but I wish we had more time (the college professor's eternal lament, I know, I know).

I think business shows like this are pitched at a higher intellectual level than any other television except PBS documentaries. The normal TV approach is "Are HOAs GOOD OR BAD, professor???!!!" Here we got a chance to talk about the pros and cons a little.

Thursday, March 31, 2005 > News > State -- Bill to ban foreclosures for small debts clears key Senate panel
Major California HOA reform bill, SB 551, includes ombudsperson
Here's the .pdf version. It will be big news if California goes the way Nevada and Florida already have. And if foreclosure reform passes as well, this will be the second huge year in a row for HOA reform legislation.
CNN "Open House" show on HOAs to air on Saturday at 9:30 am Eastern
I'm about to head over to a studio to be interviewed by CNN for this. Don't miss it. The link to CNN's Open House program web site is:
Law loses its way
Every HOA activist on Planet Earth has sent me a link to this article so here it is for all to read. A retired judge denounces the legal system and the legal profession.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Two bills divide homeowner, condo groups on foreclosures and state regulation
Fred Pilot found this good article that lays out the upcoming legislative battle in Florida. High stakes all around...

Two statewide organizations will duke it out on Wednesday in Tallahassee over the laws that affect millions of Floridians who live in association-run communities. The sides disagree on two bills that would ban boards from foreclosing on owners who owe less than $2,500 (SB 2632), and would require mandatory training for board members, mandatory audits of association books, and state regulation of homeowner association boards (HB 1229).

Sunday, March 27, 2005

BUILDER Online: The top 100 builders

It's interesting to note that all these folks talk about is how many housing units they sold and how much revenue they generated. They never have much to say about the consequences of all the private governments they are creating along with the homes they build. I guess that's what economists call an "externality" to them--something they don't consider as part of their cost-benefit equation. - Exurb growth challenges U.S. cities - Mar 27, 2005
University of Denver geography professor Paul Sutton opines on growth of the exurbs:

The West is the fastest-growing region of the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and Colorado's population grew by about 30 percent from 1990 to 2000.

Sutton said he believes urban growth everywhere is happening even faster than people realize.

Using satellite photos of nighttime lights to measure sprawl, he has concluded that his family, and a third of all Americans, are living in "exurbia" -- places just beyond the suburbs where the country looks like country again, beyond the limits of most studies of urban growth.

"I think a lot of the old ideas of suburban living are now in exurbia," Sutton said. "There is a natural environment; kids are not going to get run over by a bus. "I don't lock my house," Sutton said. "There's no crime." So people live better for less money, a little farther away. Why does that matter? First, Sutton said, because fire and police protection, school bus routes, water lines, phone service and electricity must be available for such homes -- all of which is costly. Second, he said, many who live in exurbia still work in cities, adding to traffic and pollution, and demanding services there, rather than forming independent small towns with self-sustaining economies. In effect, cities get stuck paying bills run up by people who live in the exurbs.

He makes some good points, but nothing in the article explains that in the West and practically everywhere else where this rapid growth is occurring, CIDs are the low-cost way that municipalities grow. I think the "cities get stuck paying bills" for the exurbs line, which is now a staple of Democratic Party rhetoric, is questionable. You need to add up all the taxes and assessments exurbanites pay to all levels of public and private government, not just the ones that go to municipalities.
Journal Gazette | 03/27/2005 | Suckers for sociopaths can learn avoidance
Every homeowner needs to be able to tell if any of the neighbors are sociopaths, don't you think?

The person living next door to you may look normal but could actually be about as benign as a pod person in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” so you had better avoid him or risk having your life ruined. That is the intriguing core of Martha Stout’s “The Sociopath Next Door,” a self-help guide to the detection and avoidance of sociopaths?– or people without consciences.

Gated community update: Many Germans want Berlin Wall back
BERLIN (Reuters) - Nearly a quarter of western Germans and 12 percent of easterners want the Berlin Wall back -- more than 15 years after the fall of the barrier that split Germany during the Cold War, according to a survey.

Your tax dollars at work: House OKs $37 million for Wal-Mart H.Q. road
BENTONVILLE, Ark. - The U.S. House has approved a federal highway bill that includes $37 million for widening and extending the Bentonville street that provides the main access to the headquarters of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.The company says it asked U.S. Rep. John Boozman, R-Ark., to help get federal money for the proposed project. U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, added an amendment that put the work into the $284 billion bill, which is now before the Senate.

I guess Wal-Mart didn't have enough money to pay for this itself, so the taxpayers will have to do it. I mean, with all that surplus money lying around in the US Treasury that nobody needs, why not shovel $37 million in the direction of one of the world's largest and most profitable corporations?