Saturday, December 31, 2005

Boing Boing: "Outlandish" Tacoma, WA house due for demolition
From Mystery Reader comes this saga of a house whose unique appearance is underappreciated. Needless to say, there are photos.

A county judge in Tacoma, WA has declared Vladmimir Deriugin Jr.'s crazy-looking house to be a danger, and has ordered it to be repaired or demolished...The late-1880s-era house, which Deriugin dreamed of encasing in concrete and using as the core for a 500-foot office and condominium tower, will be torn down within the next couple of months, Deriugin said. - News - Homeowners' Associations Want To Ban Sex Offenders
Fred Pilot sent this link along. This is a good test of the limits of private government to exclude undesirables. I keep hearing from HOA advocates that, oh, no, there are no secessionist tendencies in privatopia. I think one theory is that excluding people can be a cheap way to enhance property values.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Homeowners' associations are taking measures to keep their residents safe as whole communities shut their doors to convicted sex offenders. Local governments are working to evict sex offenders such as ----- because the house where he lives is too close to a public school. "I'll be homeless because I don't have enough money," ----- said. While courts decide whether ----- can be evicted, some Ohio communities are trying to make sure he can never move into their neighborhoods. Several Ohio homeowners' associations are trying to ban sexual predators from living in their communities. The Columbus Board of Realtors is not sure if the associations can legally impose such restrictions.
"As long as you follow the law by registering, then that homeowners' association probably really doesn't have anything to say about it," said Doug McCloud, the 2005 president of the Columbus Board of Realtors. So far, these bans have not been tested in court. Some Ohio associations said they just want to protect children, but some people wonder if a sex offender ban could affect property values.
New Year Brings Array of New State Laws - Yahoo! News
It's nice to know our public servants are looking out for us. Here's my favorite, right here in Illinois:
Illinois approved a state amphibian, the Eastern tiger salamander, after it won 51 percent of Internet voters, beating the gray tree frog and the American toad. "The toad and the frog kind of split up the vote and allowed the salamander to slip in," Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said.
United Press International - NewsTrack - Home builders try extras to lure customers
The evidence is mounting that the new housing market is maxed out, and we already know that resales are softer than a few months ago.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- A glut in homes for sale is prompting Washington, D.C.-area home builders to offer extras to snag customers. Daniel Oppenheim, an analyst with Banc of America Securities, said he's seen freebies worth up to 5 percent of a sales price. That includes kitchen upgrades, interest rate locks and coverage of closing costs or mortgage payments. There are more than twice the number of homes for sale this year than last.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Holy cows remain subject of legal fight
Another non-HOA story concerning differences of opinion regarding what constitutes a family member...moo.
Buffalo, New York - A Hindu couple whose sacred cows were banished from the western New York village of Angelica in 2003 have renewed their fight to bring them home. Stephen and Linda Voith are appealing a state Supreme Court decision that sided with Angelica officials, who cited rules governing farm animals within village limits. The Voiths, members of the Krishna Consciousness branch of Hinduism, insist that their six cows are not farm animals but part of the family and integral to the practice of their religion that protects and celebrates cows.
US home sales data signal end to boom

Not to talk down the US economy in unpatriotic fashion, mind you, but there are lot of unsold HOA and condo units on the market.

Sales of existing US homes dropped 1.7 percent in November while the stock of unsold homes on the market climbed to a 19-year high, the National Association of Realtors said. Admitting a slowdown is now under way, the industry group said existing home sales dropped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.97 million last month, the lowest since March. "Housing activity has peaked," said David Lereah, chief economist for the association. But he insisted the market will not implode after years of red-hot growth. "There are no balloons popping." Inventories of unsold homes increased 1.2 percent to 2.9 million, the most since April 1986.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

'Inversion' in Bond Rates Hits Stocks: The yield on the 10-year Treasury note drops to a level at or below those of shorter-term securities, in what may foreshadow an economic slump.

I don't pretend to understand this tea-leaf reading, but it sounds ominous. Check out what one analyst said about the effect on the housing market. On the other hand, Alan Greenspan says this is not a problem at all. So go figure.

Normally, longer-term bonds pay more than shorter-term issues to compensate investors for the risk of tying up their money for an extended period. When long- and short-term interest rates converge, it often is a sign that bond investors believe the economy will slow ? so they're locking in long-term yields in anticipation that rates overall soon will level off or even head lower...The 10-year T-note yield, a benchmark for mortgages and other long-term rates, ended at 4.34% on Tuesday, down from 4.37% on Friday and the lowest since Sept. 30. By comparison, the Treasury sold new six-month bills at an annualized yield of 4.35% on Tuesday. And the two-year T-note ended at 4.34%, down from 4.36% on Friday...The last time rates inverted was in the second half of 2000. By spring of 2001, the U.S. economy was in recession...AIG SunAmerica's Cheah said he was more pessimistic about the economy because he worried about the effects of a rate inversion on the housing market. Banks, he said, may no longer find it profitable enough to make long-term loans such as conventional mortgages. "I'm betting that ? many banks will stop lending to the housing market," triggering broader economic weakness, he said.

Monday, December 26, 2005

PJM News - Exec to Open Aerospace Venture (6778237/AP)
Further progress toward the privatization of space travel? Got this link from Instapundit.

KENT, Wash., Dec. 26, 2005 (AP Online delivered by Newstex) -- (NASDAQ:AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos expects a rocket-ship complex for his aerospace venture Blue Origin to open early next year. City records show that an office and warehouse he's revamping in this south Seattle suburb will be used to design and build spacecraft and engines. Blue Origin has released few details about the project. But a Texas newspaper editor who interviewed Bezos earlier this year said the billionaire talked sending a spaceship into orbit that launches and lands vertically, like a rocket, and eventually building spaceships that can orbit the Earth _ possibly leading to permanent colonies in space.
Kansas man appeals ticket over anti-war signs
Not in an HOA, either. This happened in...

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. - A suburban Kansas City man is appealing a ticket Prairie Village gave him for homemade yard signs opposing the war in Iraq. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri is helping David Quinly appeal the citation in Johnson County District Court. Quinly sought the ACLU's help after losing an appeal in municipal court. At issue is a Prairie Village ordinance prohibiting signs bigger than 5 square feet and limiting the total area of temporary signs displayed on a property to 10 square feet. Signs can't be up more than 60 days.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Abiding by rules of your neighbor: Disputes increase as more live under home associations -
From Nancy Levy comes this link to a Christmas day story about conflict in HOAs. It is worth reading and has quotes from me, Bob Nelson, and other suspects. Unfortunately it starts with the "good fences make good neighbors" line. I have to digress here. I wish reporters would give poor old Robert Frost a rest and switch to somebody more pithy, such as Edgar Allen Poe. How about starting a story on HOAs with a long quote from Poe that is appropriate to the subject, such as "...the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince's own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress or egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think." That's from The Masque of the Red Death.

See? Now here you have wall, gates, authoritarian government, and separation of the fortunate few from the rabble. That would get the reader's wheels turning. But I digress. Here's a passage from the Baltimore Sun story (did you know that Poe lived and died in Baltimore?):


Favored by developers and local governments, community associations are also popular among home-buyers because they usually help keep up the neighborhood. But they can be nightmares for the unwary, who learn the hard way that their homes are not their castles. And politics in homeowner or condo groups can sometimes make the former Soviet Union seem democratic. Associations represent a "de facto privatization of local government," says Evan McKenzie, a political scientist at University of Illinois, Chicago. The problem is, he says, these entities designed for economic purposes often conflict with the civil liberties and accountability Americans expect...Half of all new housing built since 1980 has been in community associations, estimates Robert H. Nelson, a professor in the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland and author of a recent book on the phenomenon. The growth of what he calls "private neighborhoods" is transforming how people live and govern themselves, he suggests. "Americans may want less government," says Nelson, "but that's at a higher level. At a lower level, they want more government. They're voting with their feet."
Condo alliance heads to capital -- Coalition targets homeowner association laws

Fred Pilot sent this link. Some sort of evil pop-up ad that will not die goes with the link, but it's a good story. The emergence of this new group comes on the heels of legislative successes over the last two sessions by owner activist groups like Cyber Citizens for Justice. Note that the Coalition's policy goals amount to a rollback of some of those very victories. Anybody who has information one way or another on this group is invited to comment.

The newly formed statewide Coalition of Community Associations is readying for its first descent on Tallahassee. With representatives from nine counties, including Palm Beach and Broward, the coalition is looking to spread its influence to legislators who write homeowner and condo association law. The group formed earlier this year as a way to counteract the influential consumer group Cyber Citizens for Justice, which advocates for homeowners battling their associations...For a coalition that believes in less state intervention, this spring's legislative session will be the first test of its political prowess. Some of the issues the group will pursue: ensuring a board's ability to place a lien on owners who fail to pay dues, eliminating mandatory mediation for homeowners and boards and adding standards of objectivity to the condo ombudsman's office.

Judge upholds Chicago's pigeon ban
A federal judge has ruled that Chicago's ban on keeping racing pigeons is constitutional.

The article explains that Chicago adopted the ban in 2003 and is the only city in the nation with a total ban on domestic pigeons. Somebody forgot to tell the fifty billion wild pigeons that are pooping all over the city. Which is why I think this is an uncommonly stupid law. It's about as effective as Chicago's gun ban.