Saturday, December 29, 2007

NPR : Nevadans Air Housing Worries in Primary Season: "The Las Vegas real estate market has turned from boom to bust in short order; Nevada now has the highest foreclosure rate in the nation."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Problem Solver helps a cancer patient avoid condo-association penalty --
In which we read about a condo association that raised meanness and stupidity to an art form and then backed down in the glare of publicity.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Politics - Big prisoner release plan - "In what may be the largest early release of inmates in U.S. history, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration is proposing to open the prison gates next year for some 22,000 low-risk offenders."

It seems to me that "follow the money" should be the first instruction given to anybody who wants to understand state and local government these days. This shows the limits of political mandates, even ones that come directly from "the people." In 1978 Prop. 13 passed overwhelmingly, cutting property taxes radically. But during the 1980s and early 1990s the voters and the state legislature created all sorts of new "go to prison" mandates, which happens to be hugely expensive because it costs a good $30K per year per inmate. Then Governor Terminator came along with new and expensive educational policies, and the Democrats took over the state legislature and had some great new expensive pro-social welfare and anti-business ideas. The middle class began fleeing the state for low-tax states like Nevada, as large numbers of poor people entered the state from Central America and elsewhere.

Net result: a $14 billion budget deficit. And now it is time to release 22,000 people from prison. But the service cuts won't stop there.

Rand Corporation predicted massive fiscal consequences from the mandatory minimums a long time ago. It isn't hard to do. But for some reason, you just can't get people to listen until it is too late.

Thursday, December 20, 2007 - Lakota Indians Withdraw Treaties Signed With U.S. 150 Years Ago -
People in gated communities are accused of secessionist views, but here is secession on a more dramatic scale.

The Lakota Indians, who gave the world legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have withdrawn from treaties with the United States.

"We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us,'' long-time Indian rights activist Russell Means said.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Judge clears Madison resident | | The Clarion-Ledger
I've been giving talks about this bizarre ordinance. Madison, MS, has a local ordinance making it a misdemeanor--a crime--to violate your HOA's rules.

Fred Pilot sent me this link to an article about a prosecution under the ordinance.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Maryland law to deal with defunct associations
Fred Pilot sent this. Just watch. This will become a common situation in the years to come. I have been predicting it for a long time, and now the evidence is starting to make it into the press.

Apathetic homeowners' associations soon could find themselves paying court-appointed receivers to manage their affairs. A Maryland law that took effect Oct. 1 states that a group of three or more owners can ask the courts to appoint a receiver if their home-owners' or condominium association fails to recruit enough directors to meet a quorum. The receiver then would make all management decisions for the community until it assembled a large enough board. "We've had some communities in Maryland that have gone bankrupt. Some others are just hanging on by a thread and are in terrible condition" due to neglect by their boards of directors, said District 10 Sen. Delores Kelley, the sponsor of the bill.
Entire Neighborhood Faces Foreclosure Over Association Fees - Video - WFTV Orlando: "Unless They Pay, By The End Of The Month, They Could End Up Fighting A Legal Battle... Just To Keep Their Homes. More Than 70 Homeowners... Already Have Liens Against Their Properties, In The Stonebridge Landings Development, Off Goldenrod Road, Near The Airport."

Thanks to Fred Pilot for this shocker.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Reason Magazine - The Death of Main Street: "Big businesses know that a heavy regulatory burden is the best way to make sure small- and medium-sized businesses never rise up to challenge them."

Good point. - Record home foreclosures cause snow removal problems

The snow brings a new problem with the high number of foreclosures in the Twin Cities. All those empty homes mean no one is around to clear the sidewalks.
Couple asked to take down American flag - Local & State News - Tampa Bay's 10 - "The flag, flies from a 16-foot tall pole. But last month the Grants were told their flagpole violated their Homeowners Association guidelines and now the Grants have been told they have 15 days to bring it down."
Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly: Owners can't block costly condominium assessment: "Unit owners in a condominium complex could not bar the condo's board of trustees from levying an assessment for a major renovation project, even where the project is expected to cost $75 million, a Superior Court judge has ruled."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

San Mateo Daily News: Pinched by fee hikes, condominium owners call for help
Fred Pilot sent this, which is yet another example of the looming private infrastructure crisis:

Posner's plight isn't universal, according to experts. But it's becoming increasingly familiar on the Peninsula, where the first wave of condo complexes are showing their age and many homeowners associations lack the money for repairs. The problem, many say, is a failure of planning by homeowners boards, whose members are not financial experts but average residents elected by their neighbors. Soaring construction and insurance costs aren't helping.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

9NEWS - Article - HOA says mother of fallen soldier has to take down flag
Mike Riordan sent this link.

AURORA - Mary Sims lives at the Strawberry I at HeatheRidge. On her front porch she flies a U.S. Flag. Her son Ryan Sims was a recruiter for the National Guard in Davenport, Iowa and was killed in a car crash two years ago and her husband is currently a civilian worker with the Department of Defense stationed in Iraq.

"That flag is for them, for everyone that came before, that there are now and will come after," said Sims.

She calls it a patriotic display. Last Friday, her homeowners' association sent her a notice telling her that the display violates the HOA's rules and regulations. The notice stated that the flag, which is placed on a "common element," is not allowed. It continued on to say that Sims could place the flag in her window or on the balcony. Sims refused.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Empty Houses Home to Crime As Loans Fail: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

We need a TV series on the mortgage meltdown. Episode One: Zombies roam the streets of abandoned subdivisions searching for interest-only loans.

"Eighty-five bungalows dot the cul-de-sac that joins West Ontario Avenue and East Ontario Avenue in Atlanta. Twenty-two are vacant, victims of mortgage fraud and foreclosure. Now house fires, prostitution, vandals and burglaries terrorize the residents left in this historic neighborhood called Westview Village."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Colorado Town Wants To Ban Red And Green Lights:
Another signpost on the road to American cities becoming exactly like HOAs:

"The town of Fort Collins, Colorado, and its Holiday Display Task Force are in the process of making their Christmas decorations more politically correct. The task force plans to recommend that the city displays only include white lights, winter symbols that aren't linked with any particular holiday and other non-secular items. Additionally, Christmas trees will no longer be permitted to be put up outside of public buildings or on public property. The city plans on voting on the recommendations on November 20th."
Income gap among black, white families up - Yahoo! News "Incomes among black men have actually declined in the past three decades, when adjusted for inflation. They were offset only by gains among black women. Incomes among white men, meanwhile, were relatively stagnant, while those of white women increased more than fivefold."
Miami condo at ground zero in mortgage fraud | Reuters
Here is a dubious distinction.

"...the 643-unit condo known as the Club at Brickell is a leader in mortgage foreclosures and it appears also to stand at ground zero in a blizzard of fraud that may lie behind many of the failed loans threatening to bury the U.S. property market."
New York mulls $1,000 fine for feeding pigeons - Yahoo! News
When Hemingway was living in Paris he used to shoot pigeons for dinner. Has anybody in NYC considered that option? Just trying to be helpful.

"NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York City lawmaker wants to declare war on the city's pigeons and says he will not be dissuaded by the difficulties faced by London and Venice in ridding themselves of the ubiquitous birds."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Increases in new house prices slow down: "The housing-starts report showed that 79 per cent of all new Vancouver housing starts to the end of October - 13,325 of 16,787 - were multi-family condominium or townhouse projects."

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Fla. Companies Forbidding Smoking In Private Lives - Orlando News Story - WKMG Orlando
What next? Can't ride a motorcyle? I wonder what limits there can be to privatized tyranny. After all, you agreed to this "voluntarily" by accepting the contract of employment. Say...what does that remind me of?
School board to ignore state moment-of-silence law --
Of course they are ignoring it. Everybody knows it is impossible to get students to be silent for a minute. I'd be satisfied if I could start the class with a second of silence, let alone a whole moment.
57% - Declining Confidence in Political Wisdom of Americans - Yahoo! News
So it has finally come to this: the majority of Americans now has no confidence in the political wisdom of the majority of Americans. Maybe they would prefer having a benevolent dictator to devoting more time and energy to educating themselves about politics and government.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Newswire / Press Release: Hilton is Subject of Book Project Revealing the Other Side of Hotel-condo Ownership - Books/Publishing/Newspapers | NewswireToday

Sounds interesting:

Condo*monium tells true stories of the tumultuous life in a multi-use condominium complex, including condo hotels, and urges the reader to heed the caveat emptor warning as part of a search for a condo home of one’s dreams or a rewarding investment which also serves as a vacation retreat. The author, Dr. Heinz Dinter, explains the purpose of the book: “Someone’s first-hand experience is always a useful guide and the book’s intent is to be such a guide. It’s for your peace of mind.” As a condo dweller, Dr. Dinter shared his research with fellow condo dwellers in newsletters and other writings, uncovered the successor developer’s ironclad ever-lasting control over the unit owners and money-exacting abuses, and as a result suffered the ire of those he exposed for their wrongdoings.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Bankruptcy Reform Bites Back
The irony here is that Congress passed this law at the behest of lenders who didn't want consumers to get out of their credit card debts through bankruptcy. But the result, given the collapse of housing prices, is that people are defaulting on their mortgages, which is clobbering a different set of lenders.

Score one for the law of unintended consequences. In past periods of economic turbulence, American households were able to escape mountains of bad debt—and keep their homes—by declaring bankruptcy. During the weak growth years from 2001 to 2003, for example, nonbusiness bankruptcy petitions averaged roughly 1.5 million per year. Lenders complained bitterly that bankruptcy was too easy, but because financially stressed Americans could write off their credit card and other consumer debt, they had more money available to pay their mortgages. But today's growing problem in the housing market is different—foreclosures are soaring, while bankruptcies, though clearly on the upswing, are running roughly at half the 2001-2003 pace. The reason: A new bankruptcy law, approved by Congress in 2005 after years of debate, makes it much harder for households to get out from under their consumer debt. The result: More people being forced to walk away from their homes, leaving lenders holding the bag. > News > Metro -- Homeowners associations hit by foreclosure fallout
No surprise here. If you can't pay the mortgage, certainly you can't pay the HOA. Put the whole picture together and it isn't pretty: mortgage defaults and foreclosures; builder bankruptcies that leave HOAs and owners stuck with no reserves and a pile of mechanics leins; HOAs needing to specially assess owners for major repairs (see below); lenders going out business; and municipalities faced with increasing demands and lacking the funds to meet them. Where will all this lead?

San Diego County's mushrooming number of foreclosures is starting to hobble homeowners associations large and small as cash-strapped owners cease paying their monthly dues.
Massive assessments for upgrading the buildings' systems have divided resident's of Boston's prestigious Harbor Towers - The Boston Globe
This is the kind of thing you hate to be right about. For years now, Ive been predicting a tsunami of massive special assessments as aging developments need major overhauls of private infrastructure. Now here is a real whopper. Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link.

It's the condo owners' nightmare: The building's heating and cooling system needs an overhaul, so everybody must pay a huge one-time assessment. But the 500-plus owners at Harbor Towers on Boston's waterfront are facing the mother of all bills: from $70,000 to over $400,000. And they're due by the end of this month. In full.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007 Fantino would back even tougher speeding law
Brought to you by our friends in Canada: The $10,000 speeding ticket. Maybe Hillary should pick up this idea, go with national health care.
Maine town removes offensive name : ICT [2007/10/29]
After all the hippies and yuppies moved to Maine and Vermont, those with certain political sensitivities can get taken seriously instead of being laughed at, as they would have been in the old days. So you end up with Bernie Sanders, a Socialist, being a US Senator from Vermont, and a furor over "offensive names" in Maine.

TOCKTON SPRINGS, Maine - It took almost a year and a formal complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission, but this tiny coastal town is finally free of the offensive word ''squaw'' in its place names...In 2001, Maine passed an offensive names act, introduced by Passamaquoddy legislative representative Donald Soctomah, that mandates towns abandon the word ''squaw'' in their street names and landmarks... Efforts to comply with the law were met with fierce opposition from the town's Squaw Point Home Owners Association, a private organization that owns what was formerly called Squaw Point Road and is now Defence Point Road.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

ABC News: Florida City Tries to Ban Chinese Products
I am swinging around to the view that municipalities are prevailing over HOAs in the competition to see whether public or private local government is more repressive.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007 Volunteer radar gunslingers nail speeders
Privatization strikes again, and you know the HOAs have to be involved:

Speeders beware. Your neighbors might have you on their radar. That's the message police departments across the country are trying to send by loaning residents radar guns and turning them into neighborhood speed watchers...In the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Ill., residents affiliated with homeowners associations use the radar guns. "Some people seemed surprised. Some took notice and slowed down," says Bob Fischer, director of the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation. "Others were angry that we were interfering with their inherent right to get to the train station — or back home — as quickly as possible."
Flamingos Killed in German Zoo Attack
Obviously one small part of the larger CAI conspiracy...
Turkeys, once unseen in Massachusetts, are showing up in big numbers in cities and towns - The Boston Globe
Actually this is nothing new. We have turkeys running the City of Chicago. Countrywide to Refinance Up to $16 Billion of Loans

Oct. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Countrywide Financial Corp., the biggest U.S. mortgage lender, may change terms on $16 billion of adjustable-rate mortgages before the end of 2008 so borrowers won't lose their homes to foreclosure.
Bonfire event banned in Guy Fawkes' home town - Yahoo! News
Oh, the irony...
Chicago builder, Neumann Homes, closes branches, prepares bankruptcy filing --
I won't be shedding any tears for this development firm. A few years ago there was a vast, beautiful tract of land in Antioch, just north of where I live in Lindenhurst. Neumann Homes acquired it, sued the Village of Antioch to force approval of their enormous development plans, and then did a fine job of butchering the landscape for a zillion tract homes called "The Clublands." They festooned the main road with signs saying cheesy things like "Bring your fishin' pole!" Don't you love the way developers invoke the sense of place--in this case, rural landscape--that they just destroyed? So now the Clublands will remain partially built and the enormous, ugly, bulldozed landscape that Neumann Homes created will sit there until some other developer(s) buy it.

Adios, Neumann Homes. Don't let the door hit you where the dog should have bit you.
Rural town may block Muslim site
Think this will survive a constitutional challenge?

WALKERSVILLE, Md. -- A Muslim group's plan to build a mosque and convention site on a 224-acre farm has met with resistance from many residents of this rural, overwhelmingly Christian town who fear its tranquility and security may be jeopardized. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA insists it will be a friendly neighbor, but its proposal -- including an annual national gathering of thousands of Ahmadis -- could be blocked by a measure under consideration by the town commissioners...Two days after Ahmadiyya leaders fielded questions at a public forum in August, town Commissioner Chad Weddle introduced a zoning amendment that would prohibit places of worship, schools and private clubs on land zoned for agriculture -- including the farm the Ahmadis have contracted to buy.

Monday, October 22, 2007

From Casinos to Counterterrorism
Some people think Las Vegas is the US city of the future. They have wall to wall gated communities, and also this:

LAS VEGAS -- This city, famous for being America's playground, has also become its security lab. Like nowhere else in the United States, Las Vegas has embraced the twin trends of data mining and high-tech surveillance, with arguably more cameras per square foot than any airport or sports arena in the country. Even the city's cabs and monorail have cameras. As the U.S. government ramps up its efforts to forestall terrorist attacks, some privacy advocates view the city as a harbinger of things to come.
The Great Omani
Let us take a moment to reflect on the life and times of...The Great Omani.

Ron Cunningham, who died on Monday aged 92, was an escapologist and end-of the-pier artiste specialising in feats such as eating light bulbs and removing a straitjacket while hanging upside down with his trousers on fire.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Kenneth R. Harney - Vultures Are Circling Over Distressed Properties -
I guess the housing market must be turning into a vulture's dreamland.

Call them grave dancers, vulture funds, turnaround specialists or the more euphemistic "opportunity investors." However you identify them, the deal is the same: When hyperactive real estate markets lose their sizzle, or property owners no longer can afford to hang on to their houses, well-capitalized investors smell blood and move in.

Friday, October 19, 2007

When Your Home Is Not Your Castle
The Motley Fool weighs in on HOAs and condos.

Unfortunately, it's virtually impossible to escape a homeowner's association. Most of the time, they're included in the language of your real estate deed, as a covenant that is legally attached to the land. That means that if you want to live in the neighborhood, you're stuck with the association.
Angry homeowners seek dissolution of association, board
Strange course of action considering how happy everybody is in these associations...according to the industry polls.
HUD Ends Effort To Collect Condo & HOA Fees | FHA Mortgage Guide
HOA Legi-Slate: HUD Rules on Escrowing Assessments
And decides not to require it. Maybe the disappearing escrowed property taxes around the country had something to do with this. When mortgage companies go bad...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Brooklyn Paper: New face of vandalism?
Another entry in the municipality-as-HOA-impersonator genre:

A 6-year-old Park Slope girl is facing a $300 fine from the city for doing what city kids have been doing for decades: drawing a pretty picture with common sidewalk chalk.
Paulson Urges Action on Housing Crisis
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson called Tuesday for an aggressive response to deal with an unfolding housing crisis that he said presents a significant risk to the economy.
The Times-Tribune - West Side woman faces jail time for swearing at toilet
I think I have been guilty of this offense myself a few times. Good thing I don't live in West Scranton, PA. I like the "potty mouth" pun, though. How often does an opportunity like that come along?

A West Scranton woman could face up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $300 for allegedly shouting profanities at an overflowing toilet while inside her Luzerne Street home. Dawn Herb, whose potty mouth caught the attention of an off-duty police officer, was charged with disorderly conduct recently, prompting her to fire off a letter to the editor and vow to fight the charge.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

d/visible » Blog Archive » The Rise of Neuro-Architecture
This is a fascinating blog post that I won't even try to summarize. Here is a snippet.

According to Olds, there are genuine neurological connections between behavior and the physical space it takes place in. He reasons that babies learn how to reason their way through the world almost entirely through visual and auditory stimuli, which are intimately connected to the surrounding environment. With new research showing that, even in adulthood, the brain remains remarkably malleable, Olds believes that a strong argument can be made that the architecture and design of a building can possess strong psychological impacts. “A space affects your eyes and it affects your sound, your hearing, and just through those two sensory modalities alone, those signals go into the brain and we can image the brain, non invasively, and see the effect of visual and auditory stimuli in the brain in living adults and we know it’s profound,” said Olds.

Friday, October 12, 2007

9NEWS - Article - School sends home obesity notices with students, parent upset
I've been teaching college students for a long time. The problem with public K-12 education in America is NOT that they need to do a better job of telling parents their kids are fat. The problem is that, on the whole, American primary and secondary schools do a horrible job of educating kids. Every year I see a new crop of freshman with pathetic reading skills, virtually no math skills at all, and a vast reservoir of ignorance about history, politics, and culture. What do they learn instead? I would say they know a lot about styles and fashions and trends; about sports; about the lives of professional entertainers; and about a certain orthdoxy of belief on the environment and some other PC values. Now, of course there is an upper crust of students, and of schools, where this is not true. But for the vast bulk of American students, school is not really about learning. And there are lots of these silly mandates from state legislatures and school boards to do things like tell parents their kids are fat, all of which turn the public schools into big failures.
Private Communities website
I guess this must be the place to do a search for your particular brand of Privatopia.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It's Official -- Belmont Bans Smoking In Some Homes - News Story - KNTV | San Francisco
Thought to be the first of its kind in California, the ordinance declares secondhand smoke a public nuisance and extends the city's current smoking ban to include multi-unit, multi-story residences. Though Belmont and some other California cities already restrict smoking in multi-unit common areas, Belmont is the first city to extend secondhand smoke regulation to the inside of individual apartment units.
Condo owners told to remove religious statues --
Here is a condo association that knows how to generate bad press.

Gloria Gamarano's statue of the Virgin Mary has been with her family for more than 45 years. Until two months ago, the statue decorated the small garden that wraps around the condominium she owns at Country Pointe at Coram, a Medford gated community. Now, though, it sits behind the home, a casualty of a potentially unlawful community rule at the complex that bans religious statues in gardens and other common areas.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Chimps choose more rationally than humans -
Science makes another great leap forward. Does this mean it is fair to sell homes in HOAs to chimps, but maybe not to people?

LEIPZIG, Germany, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- German researchers have demonstrated chimpanzees make choices that protect their self-interest more consistently than do humans.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Homebuilders use car dealer tactics on new-home lots
How delightful. What's next? Draft board tactics?
City passes camera law --

This means public local governments will be requiring private security measures. Note that crime has been going DOWN.

Hoping to deter crime by expanding the use of surveillance cameras, Aberdeen passed a measure that empowers the city government and police to require cameras in new developments. The Police Department, the Department of Planning and Community Development, and the Department of Public Works will decide whether a new residential, commercial or industrial development must install cameras at "strategic locations" before a development permit is issued.,,Though crime is decreasing in Aberdeen, the city is seeking to prevent crime by expanding the camera program, Simmons said. The city installed cameras this year at two troubled intersections: one on Edmund and Washington streets and the other on East Bel Air and Aberdeen avenues. The cameras can zoom in, rotate 360 degrees, and are monitored from the city's police station.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Homeowners' Associations Operate As Governments. Why Shouldn't They Be So Treated? - Wide Open: Insight and Analysis from Ohio's Premier Political Bloggers -
Here is a perspective from Ohio:

I'm sure there's a lot I've missed. I'm not impressed with the argument that "You agreed to it when you bought your house, now you have to live with it." My view: You agreed to be "governed" by reasonable people, not the petty tyrants and busybodies who have all too often gravitated towards HOA positions. Since the large majority of new homes and condos are governed (there's that word again) by the rules (which are for all practical purposes, laws) of HOAs, their actions and somewhat extra-legal nature deserve more scrutiny than they are receiving. I believe HOAs function as unnacountable de facto governments that need to be reined in. Though I haven't researched it, I would be not surprised to learn that their "trade group" is into big-league lobbying at the state and federal levels to protect their arbitrary interests. I would also suspect that their power to influence any potential legislation is growing. HOAs not happy with assuming the responsibilities commensurate with their power do have a choice: They can vote to disband. Many of them wouldn't be missed.
ABC News: Librarians Under New Management
It seems that privatization of municipal services has now hit one of the last bastions of municipal socialism: the local public library. Maybe now they will decide they run the library without 100 copies of the Alice Walker books.

The county will continue to own the buildings and all the books in them. But the libraries will be managed by an outside company for a profit. And the librarians will no longer be public employees and union members; they will be on the company's payroll. Library patrons might not notice much difference, but the librarians will, since the company plans to get by with a smaller staff and will have a free hand to set salaries and benefits.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Two Calif. cities to vote on banning smoking in apartments -
We really are seeing a lot more intrusive governing going on at the local level, with HOAs and municipalities tag-teaming the local citizenry.

Lawmakers in two California cities are casting votes this month on unprecedented legislation that would widen a growing voluntary movement by landlords and resident associations to ban smoking inside apartments and condos. Today in Calabasas, the City Council plans to vote on expanding its anti-smoking law to bar renters from lighting up inside existing apartments. It would exempt current resident smokers until they moved but would require all new buildings with at least 15 units, including condos, to be smoke-free.

Monday, October 01, 2007

NYC Mayor: Surveillance a City Necessity --
Sometimes I think that raising issues of civil liberties in CIDs, on the grounds that they are quasi-municipalities, is becoming a non sequitur. I mean, if you don't have civil liberties in cities, why should you have them in HOAs? And according to Bloomberg, people in cities don't even want civil liberties. They want security.

Residents of big cities like New York and London must accept that they are under constant watch by video cameras, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday.

Sunday, September 30, 2007 | Man Cut by Campaign Sign
People must take politics seriously in Massachusetts.

Razor blades inside a campaign sign badly cut a man who pulled up the sign.
Are you prepared to be ruled by a homeowners association? - MarketWatch
In my case, the answer, is "not unless I have no other alternative." Unfortunately, municipalities and developers are gradually creating a "no alternative" situation. So when I end up in an HOA, the industry will call me another person who "chose" an HOA.
Some in Fairfax Public Housing Make Six Figures -
The median new home price in Fairfax County is $960,000, according to this article. And of course nearly all the new housing is in CIDs.

Hundreds of families living in housing subsidized by Fairfax County taxpayers exceed income caps designed to ensure that only the neediest receive assistance, a review of county records shows. In the most extreme cases, Fairfax is underwriting rents for families making well into six figures: One household getting help makes more than $216,000 a year; another, $184,000. Dozens of others -- making $60,000, $70,000, $90,000 -- exceed eligibility caps. And they do so with the tacit approval of county housing administrators, who do little to encourage occupants to move on when their fortunes improve.
Why have municipal Wi-Fi networks been such a flop? - By Tim Wu - Slate Magazine
Municipal corporations trying to compete with business corporations and not doing so hot? Here's a case study. Are HOAs more like the munis or the businesses when it comes to providing wi-fi?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Sun Online - News: Jail ship to ease overcrowding
There's nothing like a great big prison ship to bring out the best in people, don't you think?
Las Vegas Business Press :: News : Web site ranks Las Vegas as nation's most overbuilt city
Most of this (overbuilt) housing supply is in HOAs, townhome associations, and condo associations. And it turns out that the units that are hardest to sell and townhomes. Single family homes sell much faster. Of course, those are in HOAs for the most part., a real estate investor Web site, recently ranked Las Vegas as the nation's most overbuilt city due to the 2005-'06 housing construction boom. There were 72,965 permits issued for residential construction during the last two years, reports the U.S. Census Bureau. Yet the inventory of homes available for sale on the Multiple Listing Service hit a record 24,341 in August, which is 19.4 percent more than last year, reports the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors. Roughly 40 percent of those homes are reportedly unoccupied. New home sales through August are also down 37.2 percent from a year ago, GLVAR adds.

Additionally Las Vegas has overbuilt its condominium and townhome sector. Condos and townhomes are spending 335 days on the market, says the National Association of Residential Real Estate Investment Advisors. The average single family home is spending 115 days on the market as of May 2007, according to Zip Realty.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Tom Cruise building '£5m bunker to protect against alien attack'| Showbiz | This is London
I hope he went through the Architectural Review Committee.

Hollywood star Tom Cruise is planning to build a bunker at his Colorado home to protect his family in the event of an intergalactic alien attack, according to new reports. The Mission Impossible actor, who is a dedicated follower of Scientology, is reportedly fearful that deposed galactic ruler 'Xenu' is plotting an evil revenge attack on Earth.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

NPR : Town Weighs Ban on Leaf Blowers
One of these days I'm going to put together two lists of unusual prohibitions one list for HOAs, and the other for municipalities, and compare them.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Victorville Daily Press : board member settles for seat
Challenged 2006 election, now must pay some of association’s legal fees
In Harford Co., residents pay their own way for safe streets --

Frustrated with the police response, the residents in this southeastern Harford County community have hired security guards who conduct foot patrols each night. The neighborhood association has paid nearly $75,000 this summer for the patrols, while complaining that county government has ignored the residents' plight.
Homeowners Association Sells Disabled Couple's Home | WOAI.COM: San Antonio News
But ask anybody who works in this industry and they will tell you that things like this don't really happen. I guess this must have occurred in one of those alternate universes they have in science fiction novels.
Homeowner associations: Friend or foe? | Clayton.Talk
Is this a trick question?
Bacteria sent to space come back more infectious
Great. Just great. Science marches on. Why not send up some plague while you're at it and see how virulent you can make that? To think that we are paying for this.
S&P: US Home Price Decline Accelerates: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance
Every article I read with this or a similar headline says that this must be the bottom. But the next week there is another slide.

EW YORK (AP) -- The decline in U.S. home prices accelerated nationwide in July, posting the steepest drop in 16 years, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index released Tuesday. Home prices have fallen by more every month since the beginning of the year.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Old "Scientific Consensus" about climate change
Ah, the good old days of the early 1970's, when NASA scientists predicted that burning fossil fuels would lead to global cooling.

On July 9, 1971, the Post published a story headlined "U.S. Scientist Sees New Ice Age Coming." It told of a prediction by NASA and Columbia University scientist S.I. Rasool. The culprit: man's use of fossil fuels. The Post reported that Rasool, writing in Science, argued that in "the next 50 years" fine dust that humans discharge into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuel will screen out so much of the sun's rays that the Earth's average temperature could fall by six degrees. Sustained emissions over five to 10 years, Rasool claimed, "could be sufficient to trigger an ice age."
Smog and Mirrors: China's Plan for a Green Olympics
Here is a fascinating article sent by Mystery Reader about how China's government has implemented a massive plan to "green" Beijing for the Olympics, but the massive growth of the private economy is placing those efforts in jeopardy. This is quite a test for the Chinese experiment with keeping Communist Party control of what is by now the world's fastest growing capitalist economy. Well, Marx was a believer in dialectical materialism, which means you have to love contradictions.
West Boca Raton condo association sues resident over loud TV -- South Florida
I think when you can hear somebody's TV five condos away, it is time to complain. But do you put an 80 year old in jail over it? Stay tuned. But be careful about the volume.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Capitol Hill Watch | U.S. Faces 'Fiscal Hurricane' Because of Entitlement Programs, Gregg Says -
Fred Pilot sent the link to this news of impending doom

Problems with the long-term financial stability of Medicare and other entitlement programs are "going to be a massive fiscal hurricane" as baby boomers begin to retire next year, Senate Budget Committee ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said on Tuesday in an interview with Foster's Daily Democrat. According to Gregg, the U.S. has $162 trillion in unfunded liabilities for entitlement programs for baby boomers, and Medicare, which accounts for $45 trillion of that amount, is "by far the biggest issue.
Ways You Can Lose Your Property: Realty Times - Real Estate News and Advice
Care to guess what Way Number Five is?
Homeowner says 'no' to taking down American flag | Local News | News for Charlotte, North Carolina | | South Carolina News
Year after Congress and numerous state legislatures tried to stop HOA flag-banning, here we go again. Another anti-flagpole association. Why?

YORK, S.C. -- Driving through the Bethelfields neighborhood in York, you can see it's a very patriotic community as American flags are flying outside many homes. But there's one flag that the homeowners association has a problem with. The flag flies on a 20-foot pole in the Bob Tremper’s front yard.

Former condo president in Hollywood accused of stealing insurance premiums -- South Florida
But...but...but...this sort of thing doesn't happen!

HOLLYWOOD - Authorities have charged the former president of a beachside condominium with grand theft for using condo funds to pay health insurance premiums for herself and her husband. Doris Weinstein, 64, is accused of enrolling in the health plan for the Quadomain condominium's Recreation Association employees and receiving coverage worth more than $13,000 over 30 months, according to a Hollywood police detective's report.
Palmer Ranch homeowner and association clash over Web site
This is the future of freedom of expression in this country.

Zaki is at odds with the homeowners association in his 254-home community called The Hamptons, which wants to prevent him from sponsoring a Web site he calls HamptonsNBC. As suggested by what those initials stand for -- Neighbors for a Better Community -- Zaki, a former president of the homeowners association, has some issues with how The Hamptons is being run these days. "Grievances and propaganda" is how the association's attorney described the Web site's content, in a certified letter Aug. 9 demanding that Zaki cease any use therein of the trademarked name The Hamptons. But because it is hard to complain about something without identifying it, and because Zaki felt there was a First Amendment principle involved, he ignored the letter. Last week, the association's property manager gave him until the end of the month to rename the Web site, dissolve it or face a $100-a-day fine, eventually resulting in a lien on his home.
Climate change may help rainforests - Times Online
So now are the global warming activists and the "save the rainforests" activists going to start counter-protesting each other?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Victorville Daily Press : Local News: Association fees increasing everywhere
I've been saying for years that there is a looming private infrastructure crisis because nearly all associations are under-reserved and there is this thing called the law of entropy. Stuff wears out. And then you have to fix it.

Spring Valley Lake’s recent fee increase encapsulates a situation happening all over the region, said an attorney specializing in homeowner’s association law.

“What I am seeing is homeowner dues increase dramatically all over Southern California,” said Michael Chulak, based in Calabasas, who conducts seminars for both members and board members of HOAs. The main reason for SVL’s increase is also the same for most other associations, he added: No money for infrastructure, or in HOA-speak, reserves.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Salt Lake Tribune - Great-grandma Betty pleads innocent to resisting arrest over dead grass
Thanks to Jeff Hammond for sending this saga of a crime wave in Orem, Utah.

OREM - Betty Perry pleaded innocent Tuesday to charges she failed to water her lawn and resisted arrest when an officer attempted to cite her. Cook County sales tax increase 11%!
I'm beginning to find hyperbole impossible these days. What can I say? Something like, "The Democratic Party's ongoing campaign to destroy the capitalist economy in the state of Illinois took another step forward today with a proposal to raise the brutal 9% Cook County sales tax to a confiscatory 11%. The current 9% rate has driven businesses into the collar counties like scalded dogs. The proposed increase, if enacted, would make it so hard for the county's municipalities to attract retailers that they will be holding bake sales to pay the police department."

Is that hyperbole? You be the judge.

September 18, 2007 - One Cook County commissioner wants to increase the county's portion of the sales tax, and if approved, the sales tax in Cook County would go up to 11 percent. That tax increase would also apply to restaurant and hotel bills.
Cook County Commissioner Joan Patricia Murphy said the additional tax revenue would be used to avoid another crisis when it is time to come up with next year's budget.
Talk Like A Pirate Day - September 19
Avast, ye scurvy bilge rats. It be Talk Like a Pirate Day. So heave to and prepare to be boarded, by the powers! Arrr!

Monday, September 17, 2007

American Home tries to seize $27 million in retirement savings --
So let's say they put their employees' retirement savings together with the escrowed property taxes that they may not have exactly, literally, technically, mailed to the tax collector. I bet that would be a pretty tidy sum.

Wilmington, De. - Melville-based American Home Mortgage is attempting to seize as much as $27 million that employees set aside from their paychecks as retirement savings -- and if it is successful, the workers may never see the money again. » Clever Judge Sentences Annoying Noise Offenders to Mandatory Manilow Music
What ever happened to the 8th Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

San Diego Metro News | -- Credit crunch attracts a wave of opportunism
Looks like some very sharp practices going on out there...

The first time Sandra Barranon heard that her home in Potrero had been foreclosed on and sold in a courthouse auction was when the new owner came to her door and told her she and her children had two weeks to vacate. Behind in her mortgage payments, Barranon had been working with First Gov, an El Segundo-based foreclosure consulting firm recently censured with an “F” rating by the Better Business Bureau of the Southland. She said she was contacted by First Gov in March with a promise to restructure the debt on her house.
It's Godzilla vs. Megalon in the AZ legislature again...
This year's "new laws" article for Arizona, with a battle or two over HOA law:

It wouldn't be a legislative session without a pitched battle or two over homeowner-association rules. As of Wednesday, score one for homeowners within HOAs who want to post for-sale signs on their property: The signs can't be prohibited by HOAs.
Full text of Common Ground article on HOA activists
I see that somebody has decided to upload the entire text of the "Critical Mass" article by Chris Durso.
West Lake Worth residents want subdivision gated after crime wave -- South Florida

West Lake Worth - In the last week the Sherbrooke Estates subdivision has been hit with six car break-ins, an armed home invasion and a burglary.

Now residents say they want to put up a gate that might help keep crime out.
Ailing lender's checks bounce --
Shu Bartholomew sent this along. Lenders insist on creating an escrow account and having mortgagors send their property tax payments to the lender along with their house payment. Then the mortgage company makes their property tax payment for them. That's supposed to be so much more reliable than having the flighty wastrel of a homeowner do it him/herself, because the owner will of course have no money when the payment comes due.

Right. Now it seems that American Home Mortgage sent out a bunch of rubber checks. Question: where is the money that is supposed to be in the so-called "escrow" account that each of these owners is supposed to have, safely maintained by the dependable mortgage company?

And of course now the owners are delinquent and may end up having to cough up the money...again. They are the ones who owe the taxes, not the mortgage company.

Checks sent out by the troubled American Home Mortgage Investment Corp. to pay the property taxes of more than 70 homeowners in the Baltimore metropolitan area have bounced, local officials said yesterday. Baltimore City received bad checks for 53 properties - a total of about $63,500. Baltimore County said American Home Mortgage checks bounced for 21 properties, totaling $41,000. Taxes are due at the end of the month.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Carmichael Man Wants To Build Backyard Crypt - Yahoo! News

Now here is something to make every back yard special--twenty crypts. Fred Pilot dug it up. Reminds me of a story about a gentleman from Transylvania setting up a nice home in England.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ruidoso News - Water cutoff forces condo dwellers to bottle up
Fred Pilot sent this along. Seems there was a little shortfall in paying the water bill, to the tune of some $24,000, so now these condo inmates have been transported to the 19th century and are lugging their water around in jugs.
My Way News - Philly Seeks 10,000 Men to Guard Streets
Is this a new form of privatization or an abject confession of failure by municipal government?

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The city's embattled police chief, acknowledging that police alone cannot quell a run of deadly violence, has called on 10,000 black men to patrol the streets to reduce crime.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Daily Commercial | City puts bite in 'no barking' ordinance

See? Cities are getting more like the stereotypical HOA.

MOUNT DORA - The city may put a leash on frequent dog-barking. Under a proposed change in Mount Dora's noise ordinance, dogs won't be able to just keep barking and barking, creating a disturbance in a neighborhood. Mount Dora already prohibits dogs from barking for five minutes at a time. But under the revised ordinance, even if dogs bark for less than five minutes, their owners can be cited by the city if the dog barks for three periods in 24 hours. Such barking is considered a noise disturbance.

Monday, September 10, 2007 - Housing Market Slump Forces Couple To Open Brothel
That's the old entrepreneurial spirit at work, I guess.
Limits proposed on fast-food restaurants - Los Angeles Times
Attack of the 50-Foot Nanny State!

Amid worries of an obesity epidemic and its related illnesses, including high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, Los Angeles officials, among others around the country, are proposing to limit new fast-food restaurants -- a tactic that could be called health zoning.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Condo and homeowner associations want to change the laws that govern them. -- South Florida
This story is mostly about the efforts of "homeowner" groups that are cozy with the industry. There have been claims that some of these groups are "Astroturf roots." It's getting hard to tell who represents whom these days...but I guess if you were a law firm that wanted to stop reform efforts brought about by real owner groups (like Jan Bergemann's Cyber Citizens for Justice), you might want to confuse the situation. Business: Story: CONDO CONVERSIONS GONE BAD

This looks like a playground for lawyers.

Several apartment-turned-condo complexes in the Jacksonville area are swimming in lawsuits, with complaints filed against developers, against homeowners and against condo associations.
Business Edge News Magazine - - Ontario Edition - Dual-purpose airport attracts 'condo' buyers
But can I get a doughnut there, eh?

"They've cooked up a different way to run an airport in northern Alberta - they've gone condo. At the Cooking Lake Airport - the only facility in the province with both a floatplane base and a conventional runway - the traditional model of running an airport has taken a backseat. Instead, the undertaking is described as the only airport in Canada operating with a condominium ownership structure.
Unusual Insurance Claims

"...every once in awhile, a co-op board or condo association must be prepared to deal with out-of-the-ordinary claims that involve more than just the predictable insurance issues."

Friday, September 07, 2007

Police bugs put up for sale | NATIONAL | NEWS |
A Cromwell man who found police surveillance gear in two cars they returned to him has been arrested for theft of property. Ralph Williams had put the devices up for auction on Trade Me but police had the ad taken off the the internet website. Williams was being a little cheeky when he found the bugs in two cars given back to him by police and put them up for sale on the web.
Reason Magazine - The Limits of Anti-Kelo Legislation
Thanks to Mystery Reader for this link to an assessment of the limits on "economic development" justifications for eminent domain that were passed all over the nation in the wake of Kelo decision by the USSC.

Legislators have found many different ways to produce bills that appear to protect property rights without actually doing so. Texas, for example, banned "economic development" takings but continues to permit them under other names, such as "community development." The most common tactic, used in some 16 states' post-Kelo laws, is to allow economic development condemnations to continue under the guise of alleviating "blight." While it may sometimes be desirable to use eminent domain to transform severely dilapidated areas, many states define "blight" so broadly that almost any neighborhood qualifies. Opinion: A Wall Street Trader Draws Some Subprime Lessons: Michael Lewis

How's this for a pithy lead:

Sept. 5 (Bloomberg) -- So right after the Bear Stearns funds blew up, I had a thought: This is what happens when you lend money to poor people.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

California: Homeowner Protection Act clears Legislature
Another step toward making HOAs behave like governments.

Homeowner associations, which already act like little governments, would have to hew to some of the standards of larger regulatory bodies under a proposed state law that has gotten unanimous approval by the California Assembly and Senate. SB 528, authored by state Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, now heads to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to be signed into law. The Aanestad measure strengthens homeowner protections in common interest developments (CIDs), such as homeowner associations, by requiring all CID boards to only consider matters that are listed on an agenda during regularly scheduled meetings.
Ruling on pickups won't wipe out bans by condo associations -- South Florida
Cities can't ban pickups in Florida, but not so can?

`Residents of condo and homeowner association communities who want the right to park pickups in their driveways shouldn't look to a recent appeal court decision for relief, legal experts say. That ruling applies only to cities. The Third District Court of Appeal in Miami ruled 2-1 that the city of Coral Gables can't enforce the "unconstitutional" code that for years prevented residents from parking pickups in their driveways overnight. In the ruling, Senior Judge Alan R. Schwartz called it "frightening" for a government to make something illegal because some people don't like the way something looks.
FCC may ban cable exclusivity deals -
These anti-competitive deals have been going on for decades:

Federal regulators appear set to crack down on cable companies that sign exclusive deals with apartment and condominium buildings, denying residents the fruits of emerging pay-TV competition. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin is recommending prohibiting such future agreements and preventing enforcement of exclusivity clauses in existing contracts, three FCC officials say.
Condo group suing couple over Web site-
Here is a story from Michigan. The real problem seems to be that this website includes a forum where people can criticize the BOD and management company. So now do we have attorneys arguing that such activities can be prohibited?

MUNDY TWP. - A married couple who started a Web site for residents in their condominium complex are learning that free speech can be costly. James and Helen Cunningham say they are staggered by a bill from their condo association for more than $3,000 - the attorney's fees racked up by the board of directors so far in suing the couple in Genesee Circuit Court over the site. In court papers, the board claims the site should be shut down because it violates an association bylaw that forbids "annoyances" and interferes with association business. The Cunninghams said they started the site so they could get to know more neighbors in the Lake Park Village subdivision on Fenton Road, north of Baldwin Road, where they've lived for 13 years. James Cunningham said he is dismayed by the board's effort to force him and his wife to finance the lawsuit, even threatening to put a lien on their property if they don't pay by Monday.
Amid a Second Tragedy, Plans for a Private U.S. Spaceport are Unveiled - Popular Science

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Pending Home Sales Sink in July: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance
More bad news...

"Numbers like this should put to rest the belief that we've reached the bottom" in the housing market, said Joel Naroff, chief economist for Commerce Bancorp Inc. "There's still a lot of pain that's ahead of us."

Monday, September 03, 2007

Insigniaresidential - FSBO » Blog Archive » Luxury Ghost Towns
Nice turn of phrase...

Three years ago, this Las Vegas suburb was teeming with modern-day prospectors armed with low-interest mortgages, all hoping to strike it rich in real estate. Now, what started with the subprime-mortgage mess and subsequent credit crunch are turning communities like Black Mountain Vista into luxury ghost towns. Buyers who got in over their heads are being forced to abandon their homes, leaving behind empty McMansions on the California coast and see-through condominium towers on Miami Beach. Real estate is turning into a money pit, sapping the fortunes of home buyers, hedge-fund managers and house painters alike. The really bad news? This is only the beginning.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Invented languages: They're not just for Klingons anymore
A few years ago, I was in Germany having breakfast with economist Fred Foldvary. We were at a conference on gated communities. There were people from all over the world at this conference, and I said, jokingly, it was too bad everybody couldn't speak Esperanto. Fred replied in Esperanto. He is one of the 2,000,000 Esperanto speakers. What are the odds? I guess about 150 to one?
City pays Michael Bolton not to sing
A wise municipal policy? You be the judge.
Harvard reader of chicken entrails and tea leaves warns of recession, Urges Fed to Cut Rate to 4.25%
You may have gathered from the headline that I am a bit skeptical of economic or other social scientific forecasts. Heck, throw in hard science as well. But who knows? Maybe he's right.

Sept. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Harvard University economist Martin Feldstein said the U.S. housing slump threatens a broader recession, and the Federal Reserve should lower interest rates.
Private subdivision road upkeep bedevils Gilbert |
This story is what triggered the editorial linked below. Crumbling private streets coupled with no money to fix them is going to be a huge and growing problem in the years to come, for HOAs across the nation. Finally a public official uses the same term I've been using: "timb bomb."

t least 90 subdivisions in Gilbert are facing a “ticking time bomb” when it comes to their privately owned roads, town officials say. The problem comes after several years of wear and tear start to show and residents start wondering when the town’s government is going to get around to fixing their streets. But in developments with private streets, residents or their homeowners associations are responsible for maintaining the roads. And as these neighborhoods grow older, their deteriorating streets become a problem for the entire town. As a result, the problem has been dropped in the Town Council’s lap as Gilbert helps look for solutions. “It’s a time bomb because, basically, these homeowners associations don’t know what the costs are,” Gilbert Town Manager George Pettit said.
HOAs should shore up own private roads |
Great editorial forwarded by Fred Pilot. For years I have been warning people about the looming private infrastructure crisis. Here is Gilbert, AZ, addressing one of the biggest time bombs: private streets. The whole problem is laid out in a couple of paragraphs:

In fact, Gilbert had a policy for years of allowing subdivision developers to build smaller, narrower streets with the understanding that a subsequent HOA would have the legal requirement for maintenance. The arrangement meant developers could devote more space to additional houses or other amenities, while Gilbert reduced its commitment to street construction issues. In the most cases, the actual homeowners weren’t around when these deals were struck. So developers should have made it clear to newly created HOAs that privately owned streets were part of the package. In turn, each HOA’s original board should have established a street maintenance program to be followed, and modified as warranted, by those came along afterward. In many cases that didn’t happen, Markham reported, and homeowners only learned they would have to personally foot the bill when they started asking who was going to deal with the crumbling asphalt. The widespread confusion and headaches for homeowners has prompted Gilbert leaders to stop making such arrangements, Markham reported. Most new residential streets must be built to public standards and handed over to the city. But Gilbert wisely isn’t bailing out HOAs that failed to plan ahead. The city is helping such HOAs to get a break on street repair costs from contractors already doing work on city-owned streets in the area.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Polk County Condo Complex Has Power Shut Off, Water To Come - News Story - WFTV Orlando
I expect a lot more of this in the near future.

DAVENPORT, Fla. -- Dozens of Polk County families will spend another day in the sweltering heat without electricity, and on top of that could have their water shut off Wednesday. More than 100 residents at the Tropicana Resort condos in Davenport protested outside the front office Tuesday. They said they've paid their rent, but the condo association that runs the complex fell behind on its utility payments by tens of thousands of dollars.
Barclays Capital bails out $1.6bn hedge fund | | Guardian Unlimited Business

Barclays Capital, the high street bank's investment banking arm, has bailed out a $1.6bn (£800m) Cairn Capital hedge fund after it was pushed to the brink of collapse by the global credit squeeze and sub-prime mortgage crisis.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Pullins Report - Pullins Law Firm Wins Big in Appeals Court
With links to information about the case.
Bush to unveil homeowners' plan - Mortgage Mess -
I see no mention of a bailout for the companies that went bust making these loans. I'm wondering what this package is going to look like and who is going to be making the loans.

WASHINGTON - Offering federal help for strapped mortgage holders, President Bush is proposing to aid hundreds of thousands of borrowers hard hit by the housing slump. The president on Friday was to talk about several initiatives and reforms to help homeowners with risky mortgages keep their homes, a senior administration official said Thursday. Bush also was to discuss efforts to prevent these kinds of problems from arising in the future.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Subprime loans face big hikes - Yahoo! News
New York - Millions of homeowners around the nation are now getting the news in the mail: The interest rate on their home loans is going up, possibly to double-digit levels.
Boom of condo crash loudest in Miami --

Miami, with its unmatched volume and untold number of speculative buyers, is ripe for the hardest fall in the U.S. "Miami is the poster child for the condo bust," said Jack McCabe, CEO of McCabe Research & Consulting, a real-estate market-analysis firm located in Deerfield Beach. "There are probably only two cities in the world with more construction: Shanghai and Dubai. Unfortunately, there is going to be a lot of foreclosures . . ., and developers, lenders, title companies and real-estate companies will go under."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

JS Online: Severed goat head left at law office
Making her an offer she couldn't refuse, or just negative feedback?
Plano man told to remove solar lights | | Local News: TV
More absurd repression by an HOA:

PLANO - Do homeowners' associations wield too much power? Some North Texans facing fines, liens and even foreclosures for everything from fake flowers to satellite dishes say there's no question about it. Eli Barron didn't ask his homeowners' association for permission to install seven solar lights. He didn't know he had to until he received a letter. The association threatened to fine him $200 a day until he removed the energy-conserving lights.

News: How involved are you with your homeowner's association? | -

This is a poll. The results aren't in yet, but here's a spoiler: the answer is going to be...not very.
In Greenwood, Home Projects Might Need Neighbors' OK - Local News Story - WRTV Indianapolis
So--another example of building associations into the structure of local government.

GREENWOOD, Ind. -- Greenwood's city council is considering an ordinance that would require homeowners to get approval from their neighborhood association before obtaining a city permit for home additions.
Century Village unit criticized for spending $11,000 to alter elevator for Sabbath -- South Florida
Usually stories like this involve an association banning religious displays or some such thing because the practice conflicts with a rule. Here we have an association spending money to accomodate religious practices. Apparently either way they get criticized...

Most of the 56 owners in Berkshire E are Orthodox Jews barred for religious reasons from pushing the buttons on their elevator during the Sabbath, which runs from Friday evening to Saturday evening. They persuaded their board to spend $11,000 to convert the elevator so it automatically stops on each of the four floors during the Sabbath.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

RHE man gets jail time for property fixes
And you thought your HOA was tyrannical? How does six months in jail stack up, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood municipality?

He built a fence, a retaining wall, a patio and a few concrete columns to decorate his driveway, and now Francisco Linares is going to jail for it.
Home Prices: Steepest Drop in 20 Years
As predicted, and even worse.

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. home prices fell 3.2 percent in the second quarter, the steepest rate of decline since Standard & Poor's began its nationwide housing index in 1987, the research group said Tuesday.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Home Sales Hit Slowest Pace in 5 Years: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance
The Coloradoan - - Ft. Collins, CO.

Here is a proposal in Ft. Collins, CO, to convert neighborhoods to HOAs, just as economist Robert Nelson has been proposing for years. Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link.

City Council member Wade Troxell wants the city to take a fresh look at code enforcement and has asked staff to study the concept of neighborhood-created homeowners associations. Neighborhoods could be as small as a city block, and people living in an area where a HOA is passed could be forced to join, even against their will, and possibly be asked to pay association fees.
News - Hope on the rise in Phoenix Park -
Fred Pilot sent this update on the municipal takeover of the collapsed Franklin Villa association.
ABC News: Right to Dry? Fight to Hang Clotheslines may be protected by legislatures against HOA prohibitions

Vermont is the latest state to introduce a bill that would override clothesline bans, which are often instituted by community associations loath to air laundry even when it's clean. Now, clothesline restrictions may be headed the way of bans on parking pickup trucks in front of homes, or growing grass too long -- all vestiges of trim and tidy hopes that may not fit with the renewed emphasis on going green.
Embattled Attorney General Resigns - New York Times
It's about time. The pattern of the Bush administration is to keep people on long past the point where any other administration would have dropped them in order to stop the bleeding. I gather this reflects the President's determination to show that nobody can make him do anything. He is, after all, "The Decider." But this is a self-destructive strategy, unless the people and policies being stubbornly supported prove in the end to have been good ones. The result to date is that Bush's job approval rating has been buried at the bottom of a deep crater on one of the frozen moons of Jupiter for a year or so. If he's waiting to be bailed out by the history professors, all I can say is "Don't hold your breath." The judgment of history will not be that George Tenet, Norman Mineta, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, et al., did a fantastic job that was under-appreciated at the time.
Larry Summers: US could be heading for recession - Telegraph
I hope he is wrong about this, but people have been saying for years that the housing market was keeping the economy rolling.

Former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers warned that the United States may be heading into recession as the biggest victim to date of the sub-prime mortgage debacle was humiliatingly sold for a token sum in Germany. Traders are braced for another week of turmoil after the near breakdown of America's $2,200bn (£1,100bn) market for commercial paper...Federal Reserve data shows that the outstanding stock of US commercial paper has fallen by $255bn over the last three weeks, a sign that borrowers have been unable to roll over huge amounts of debt. The fall is comparable to the sudden shrinkage that occurred at the onset of the dotcom bust, and may have the effect of draining liquidity.
Flips, scams blamed in California housing decline | Reuters
How one HOA development fell victim to some people who gamed the system. While the gaming was good, at least.

The families believe the investors were not just people flipping houses for a quick profit, but also a group of scammers taking advantage of lax lending rules that permitted 100 percent financing with no money down and minimal documentation. For the Gordons and Taylors, these are the people who ruined the neighborhood by using their homes like revolving night clubs, cramming cars into the cul de sacs and threatening neighbors who complained.

Charlotte Observer | 08/26/2007 | Shalt-nots that shape neighborhoods
I like this lead:

Your neighborhood is more likely to have this pairing than not: rules, enforced by a homeowners association.
The Enquirer - Problem ponds
Here's another issue to keep an eye on. Cities make developers deal with potential drainage issues at the time of initial construction, and if the developer has enough open space they do it by building detention ponds, which is cheaper than building more sewer capacity. These ponds turn into an expensive nuisance if not maintained, and guess who gets the responsibility and the bill? The HOA, of course. Like the man says, the bottom line is money, and solving a problem with a detention pond can run into seven figures.

But what happens when the retention pond doesn't function properly? Who's to blame when the ponds leak or sediment builds up? And who fixes the problem when algae blooms begin to stink? Homeowners in several local communities have learned the hard way that getting answers to such questions can take years - and can cost a lot of money...If the developer has enough open space, building a retention pond that controls the flow into existing storm sewers is cheaper than installing bigger storm sewers. "The bottom line is money," said Petty.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Drop Foreseen in Median Price of U.S. Homes - New York Times
Here is a milestone nobody wants to see. This is mainly the result of the overpricing that occurred during the housing bubble, but I can't help thinking that on some level the market is reflecting the fact that, apart from the investment expectations and the tax advantages, home ownership isn't worth as much as it once was. With today's new CID housing, you just don't get the dominion and control that was once considered a major part of the package. For example, if it comes to deciding whether or not to buy a condo unit, and the value isn't increasing, many people would just as soon rent. Home ownership can be a huge hassle, and the costs can offset the tax advantages. I know some people with substantial assets who have rented their entire lives, including at least one famous law professor. In some big cities it isn't all that unusual a thing to do.
Federal Reserve allows Citigroup to elude key banking rule - Aug. 24, 2007
From CNN Money:

In a clear sign that the credit crunch is still affecting the nation's largest financial institutions, the Federal Reserve agreed this week to bend key banking regulations to help out Citigroup (Charts, Fortune 500) and Bank of America (Charts, Fortune 500), according to documents posted Friday on the Fed's web site. The Aug. 20 letters from the Fed to Citigroup and Bank of America state that the Fed, which regulates large parts of the U.S. financial system, has agreed to exempt both banks from rules that effectively limit the amount of lending that their federally-insured banks can do with their brokerage affiliates...The Fed says that it made the exemption in the public interest, because it allows Citibank to get liquidity to the brokerage in "the most rapid and cost-effective manner possible." So, how serious is this rule-bending? Very. One of the central tenets of banking regulation is that banks with federally insured deposits should never be over-exposed to brokerage subsidiaries; indeed, for decades financial institutions were legally required to keep the two units completely separate. This move by the Fed eats away at the principle. Sure, the temporary nature of the move makes it look slightly less serious, but the Fed didn't give a date in the letter for when this exemption will end. In addition, the sheer size of the potential lending capacity at Citigroup and Bank of America - $25 billion each - is a cause for unease.
Homeowners may face liens from city:
After homeowners association disbanded, city forced to mow common areas, out $1,600 - Clarksville, TN

This is the kind of thing I am expecting to see a lot more of in the years to come.

Homeowner associations, when working smoothly, can be the perfect tool to keep neighbors' yards mowed and chain-link fences at bay. One Clarksville neighborhood, however, is demonstrating what happens when those associations fall apart. In short, things get complicated...Riggins said the city's policy regarding inactive homeowner associations, which allows it to place liens on individual property owners when communal properties are no longer maintained, is a standard practice in other cities.
Chapelwood residents debating pros and cons of homeowners association - Dothan, Alabama
Nice that the city set up a forum for the owners to make up their own minds about this. The normal route is the developer bundles a mandatory association with the choice to buy the home. Then you have to listen to all this nonsense about how "you voluntarily joined the association," as if you had signed up to be a member of the Moose Lodge or something.

They can be the bane of a homeowner’s existence or a protective force against obnoxious house colors and unsightly yard art.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Wall St. Worries About Year-End Bonuses
How about we take up a collection for these folks?
Police losing fight against blade culture as stabbings escalate - Australia

Someone in New South Wales is threatened or attacked with a knife, sword, machete, pair of scissors or other sharpened weapon every two hours and nine minutes.

And he must be getting pretty tired of it, too.

Seriously--another result of gun control?
Las Vegas SUN: Chicago Suburbs Fight Flooding Threat
We had so much rain over the last couple of weeks that the Fox River looks like the Mississippi. The Des Plaines River, likewise. Our house is on high ground, so we are just dealing with a saturated lawn, but when I drove to Geneva for a court appearance last week I was next to the Fox River and it was looking pretty grim for people with waterfront homes. Then we had three more days of heavy rain...
Brits ban handguns, gun crimes double - Times Online
Another government intervention in human conduct goes awry...

Despite a ban on handguns introduced in 1997 after 16 children and their teacher were shot dead in the Dunblane massacre the previous year, their use in crimes has almost doubled to reach 4,671 in 2005-06. Official figures show that although Britain has some of the toughest anti-gun laws in the world, firearm use in crime has risen steadily.
Mesa HOA vote to build $8.5M luxury center tossed out by judge | ®
Wow. Why not build a pyramid while you're at it?

A Superior Court judge has ruled against a homeowners association in east Mesa, halting its plans to force residents to pay for the construction of an $8.5 million luxury community center.
Many residents said the project was rammed down their throats and that they couldn't afford the mandatory fees.

Friday, August 24, 2007

S.African mayor wants embarrassing municipality name neutered - Yahoo! News
Here's another advantage of HOA living: no developer will name your subdivision "Bull Testicle Villas." But a city? Well, a city can end up being named "Ethikwini."

Red-faced at explaining the name to visitors, a South African mayor is now pushing for a fresh title for one of country's main municipalities which translates as a pair of bull's testicles.
Careful, developers - Treasures may be hiding in sheltered bays - 24/08/2007
I guess "treasure" is in the eye of the beholder. When I saw the headline I was thinking more along the lines of a pirate flotilla full of Spanish doubloons.

Underwater caves in sheltered bays could house a wealth of untapped pre-European archaeological treasures, say Australian researchers. And people involved in coastal developments need to be more aware of the potential for disturbing this underwater heritage, they say.
Growing Associations, Growing Controversy - The County Line - Connection Newspapers
Shu Bartholomew sent me this link:

As the investigation of Koger Management Group, Inc. continues, there is a growing question among home and condominium owners if there isn’t a better way to get action on problems with homeowners and condominium associations or real estate management companies.
Condo association president arrested
Fred Pilot pointed me to this story at the Cyber Citizens for Justice website.
Beat The Press | The American Prospect
Mystery Reader sent along this piece by Dean Baker on "The Unreported Wall Street Bailout." Well worth reading.
The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio - 4 years, 3 months sentence for property manager
Fred Pilot found this link about the Multivest scandal.

Kathleen DeSalvo, co-owner of the firm that once managed Mariner’s Point Condominium Association in Saybrook Township, was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Cleveland to 51 months in prison for mail fraud...DeSalvo, who co-owned Willoughby-based MultiVest Management Inc. with her husband, James DeSalvo, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud back in April. She admitted to having transferred funds from clients’ bank accounts and depositing the funds into MultiVest’s accounts since 2000. She also admitted to having created false bank statements, which reflected inflated balances in client accounts and providing the false statements to the accounting department, which unknowingly created false financial statements, which then were mailed to MultiVest’s clients every month.

Home Sales Rise, Factory Orders Up: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance
At last, a bit of good news about the housing market.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Proposed amendment would pull up sagging pants in Atlanta
I guess the whole baggy and saggy pants thing has sort of bottomed out in Atlanta.
'Thought police' to target drinkers |
Great example of officials who don't understand that we have a 400 year Anglo-American tradition of limited government.

People who even think about going for a drink face being banned from their town centre for up to two days under wideranging new police powers. Potential trouble-makers can be asked to move on and stay away – even if they have not touched a drop of alcohol.