Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Great Loan Blog
Here is a blog devoted to "A spirited discussion of real estate, the mortgage business and the economy." A sample:

...the cheap Jumbos are not coming back anytime soon. Why? These loans are for the most qualified borrowers at the higher end of the income spectrum so you have to ask yourself… what is wrong with affluent borrowers being required to put 20% down, verify income, and pay a premium for a large principle loan?The key point here is that the terms have just come back to normal… NOT tightened! Also, remember that, unlike the subprime issue, there is not even the slightest chance that any government program, Fannie, Freddie, FHA, VA, etc. or for that matter any politician can do or will do ANYTHING about it...why is this important?Because, in the last 5 years (really the last 10 years in the ultra-hot bubble metro markets) it’s NOT been the Vanderbilt’s who have been making use of Jumbo loans… it’s been the middle class dual income couple (DINKS and with kids) and the upper middle class professional individual.
My Way News - Ammunition Shortage Squeezes Police
Barney Fyfe got by on one bullet, but I don't think that will suffice these days.
Where Housing Remains Strong
Amidst all these national stories of doom and gloom, here is a little perspective. Some parts of the country have a nice, strong housing market. So, it's bad out there...

Unless, of course, you live in Salt Lake City. Or Binghamton, N.Y.; Salem, Ore.; or Allentown, Pa. In these U.S. metropolitan areas, and in 93 others, existing single-family home prices actually increased in the second quarter of 2007 from a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors. The national median home price, meanwhile, fell 1.5%, to $223,800, in the same period.
The world's strangest laws - Times Online
Here's my favorite: It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament.
Beware Of Condo Association Bylaws - Consumer News Story - WRC | Washington
WASHINGTON -- Realtors are warning people interested in buying condos to be careful of condo association bylaws. Sharon Black is in the middle of a condo-fee fight. She said she was late with only one condo fee payment, but within two weeks, management at her Temple Hills Condominium towed her car twice. It was parked right outside her front door. "Just to know you can't park your car on your property that you're paying for is a little much for me," Black said.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Clock is Ticking on Las Vegas' Water Supply
So, all those new gated communities in the Vegas area are looking at a water shortage coming down the pike. This is what happens when people (over)build the nation's fastest growing metro area in a desert. As Gomer Pyle used to say, "Surprise, surprise, surprise!" Maybe somebody should turn off that hourly water show at the mega-fountain outside the Bellagio.

The news coming from the Southern Nevada Water Authority Thursday about the valley's future water supply is worrisome. Unless we act quickly, there will be no water for hundreds of thousands of Las Vegas Valley residents in just three years.
My Way News - Asian and European Markets Decline
Who could have envisioned that a world-wide financial crisis would result from opening up the mortgage market so people who formerly wouldn't have qualified could instead buy condos?
'Freedom Is About Authority': Excerpts From Giuliani Speech on Crime - New York Times
Freedom is about authority? This is an issue in HOA and condo living, too. This speech is from 1994, but it is worth thinking about.
Winfield Myers: Shedding light on the professoriate - Examiner.com
I believe in academic freedom, but I think it is appropriate that people learned about how politicized the academy has become, and about how one-sided that politicization is. Parents, alumni, and taxpayers foot the bill, so I think they ought to know how their money is being spent.

Academic radicals have for years controlled campus debate by blackballing internal opponents, intimidating students and crying censorship whenever their views or actions were challenged. They got away with such behavior for two principal reasons: A sympathetic media assured the nation that universities were in the front lines of the fight for liberty and justice, and there were few external organizations or individuals offering sustained critiques of politicized scholarship and teaching. These helped ensure that the public’s reservoir of good will toward universities remained full. But times are changing.
Report links White House hopeful John Edwards to subprime lenders - Aug. 17, 2007
While Hillary Clinton proposes legislation to crack down on these folks, John Edwards is investing in their companies? But...but...I thought he was the friend of the poor.

LONDON (CNNMoney.com) -- Democratic presidential contender John Edwards has investing ties to subprime lenders who are foreclosing on victims of Katrina, according to a report published Friday. The Wall Street Journal said there are 34 homes in New Orleans that face foreclosure from the subprime unit of Fortress Investment Group. Edwards has about $16 million in Fortress (Charts), a hedge fund and private equity manager, the newspaper said.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Las Vegas SUN: Editorial: Let the sunshine in
Thanks to Monica Caruso for this link to a story about an HOA that seems to be making some smart decisions about energy consumption.

R esidents of a North Las Vegas community are considering solar lights as replacements for gas lamps in the neighborhood's public areas. A story in the Las Vegas Sun on Saturday says homeowners association members for The Parks are weary of the $9,000 a month it costs to operate the gated community's 550 gas lamps and are considering retrofitting lamps with solar panels or switching them to low-voltage electric lights. Converting the lamps to solar power would cost just under $600 per light - more than the $440 per light the low-voltage fitting would cost. However, although solar power is more expensive at the outset, once it is installed the association no longer would have a monthly power bill for running the lights. The low-voltage lamps, on the other hand, would cost about $3,000 a month to operate. It is an interesting discussion and one that more communities likely will have as residents seek ways to cut energy costs and burn less fossil fuel .

Investors seek refuge as credit worries snowball | Reuters
LONDON (Reuters) - Global investors slashed exposure to risk on Thursday, driving key stock benchmarks to multi-year lows and setting the yen soaring as traders exited high yielding assets and opted for the safety of government bonds and cash. Some measures of risk aversion reached their highest level since the September 11 2001 attacks as fears grew that fallout from the U.S. mortgage market could spark a funding crisis for financial institutions and companies worldwide.
Community Associations Network - RSS News Feeds and Codes
If you haven't checked out Joe West's page of news feeds about community associations, maybe you should.
Home Construction Down in July: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Construction of new homes fell to the lowest level in more than a decade in July as builders continued to struggle with the steepest housing slump since 1991. The Commerce Department reported Thursday that construction of new homes and apartments dropped 6.1 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.38 million units. That was down 20.9 percent from the pace of activity a year ago and represented the slowest pace since January 1997.
Credit crunch imperils lender - Los Angeles Times
Countrywide Financial Corporation claims to be the number one mortgage lender in the US.

Countrywide -- which made 1 of every 6 home loans in the U.S. in the first half of this year -- now finds itself battling not just its own growing defaults but also a widening credit crunch stemming from the nationwide sub-prime mortgage meltdown. On Wednesday, the company was said to be having trouble borrowing money on a short-term basis, securities analysts discussed the possibility of a Countrywide bankruptcy and the firm's stock price tumbled 13%, bringing its loss for the year to 50%.
Iraqi attitudes continue to shift toward secular values
This is quite a head-turner.
My Way News - Obama Says Bush Not Solely to Blame
This is not from The Onion. It is a real headline.
OpinionJournal - The Death of Diversity
People in ethnically diverse settings don't care about each other

A lot of people, myself included, have wondered whether CIDs would produce more homogeneous (less diverse) neighborhoods because of the niche marketing that goes on, with people being targeted very specfically by age and other demographics with mailings and ads and other marketing appeals. The "seniors" community is the most obvious example of this. The implicit assumption behind this question is that diversity is a community asset, a position that is universally espoused by every political candidate, the media, and of course academia. Now here comes some evidence to the contrary.

Now comes word that diversity as an ideology may be dead, or not worth saving. Robert Putnam, the Harvard don who in the controversial bestseller "Bowling Alone" announced the decline of communal-mindedness amid the rise of home-alone couch potatoes, has completed a mammoth study of the effects of ethnic diversity on communities. His researchers did 30,000 interviews in 41 U.S. communities. Short version: People in ethnically diverse settings don't want to have much of anything to do with each other. "Social capital" erodes. Diversity has a downside.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Existing Home Sales Fall in 41 States: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance
As the owner of an "existing home," I was wondering if there is such a thing as a "non-existing home." But in any event: ouch.

The new figures from the National Association of Realtors underscored the severity of the current housing slump, the worst downturn in 16 years. However, Realtors officials said they saw some glimmers of hope in the data. They noted that existing home prices were up in 97 of the 149 metropolitan areas surveyed compared with the sales prices of a year ago.
Feds OK aid for Manhattan traffic project
I am always grateful for the free parking we enjoy in suburbia. Soon I will be grateful that I can drive on the streets without paying the Mayor for the privilege. Watch out for the tax on taking a shower, coming soon to a city near you.

ALBANY - The imposition of fees on drivers traveling into the Manhattan business district took a step closer to reality yesterday when the federal Department of Transportation awarded $354 million to help the project along. The plan as envisioned by Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls for charging cars $8 and trucks $21 to travel south of 86th Street in the congested borough between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays. It could be in effect as early as 2009.
Woman Arrested for Yelling Witch Chants: Waukesha, WI
All you attorneys out there looking for new things to put in the CC&Rs, consider this slice of life.

WAUKESHA - A Waukesha woman was arrested early Tuesday morning for disturbing neighbors by yelling witch chants around a bonfire she built 10-feet from her home, police Capt. Mike Babe said. Brenna K. Barney, 42, told police that they were infringing on her religious beliefs since she is a Wiccan and she was performing a ritual because of a new moon, Babe said. She said her name is Brenna Raven Moonfire.
McClatchy Washington Bureau | 08/14/2007 | New airport agents check for danger in fliers' facial expressions
Is this Big Brother, or what? Now some bozo who is supposedly an "expert" in judging body language and facial expressions, based on a whole 16 hours (!) of training, can hassle you and even keep you off a plane. And the key emotions are "fear and disgust." Great. I'm always afraid I'll miss my connection because the planes are always LATE, and that makes me disgusted. Am I the only one? I don't think so.

At the heart of the new screening system is a theory that when people try to conceal their emotions, they reveal their feelings in flashes that Ekman, a pioneer in the field, calls "micro-expressions." Fear and disgust are the key ones, he said, because they're associated with deception. Behavior detection officers work in pairs. Typically, one officer sizes up passengers openly while the other seems to be performing a routine security duty. A passenger who arouses suspicion, whether by micro-expressions, social interaction or body language gets subtle but more serious scrutiny.
Stockton Foreclosure Rate Highest In Country - Yahoo! News
Fred Pilot sent this. It figures that foreclosure ground zero is in California, but I wouldn't have picked Stockton as the epicenter.
A new report says Stockton's foreclosure rate is the worst in the country, and Sacramento is not far behind. Foreclosures have skyrocketed in California, Ohio, and the Northeast. Nationwide, there are about 600,000 properties in foreclosure. By the end of the year, 1 million properties are expected to be in foreclosure.Stockton isn't alone with this dubious distinction. Sacramento is No. 5 nationwide, fresno checks in at No. 14. Oakland is No. 19 and San Francisco came in at No. 78.
Many Buyers Must Try, Try Again As Condominium Market Shrinks - washingtonpost.com
I guess this is what they call a "market correction." I think canceling some projects is a good thing because the overbuilding is so obvious that you'd have to be blind not to see it. Where we live, the new houses approved but not yet built far exceed any possible demand, and the schools are already overcrowded, so I hope some of the projects are canceled.

Washington, DC: A growing number of condominium developers are backing out of projects as the worsening real estate market causes lenders to tighten their standards. For buyers, a project's cancellation can be an unexpected jolt. They get their deposits back but nothing for their time and aggravation.In the past 12 months, nearly 20,000 condo units have been removed from the glutted local development pipeline, said Gregory H. Leisch, chief executive of Delta Associates, a real estate research firm in Alexandria. By Delta's count, in the second quarter of this year, developers abandoned plans for 22 local condo projects.

Nifong: The Dog Ate My Law License - August 15, 2007
Life imitates art? I mean, if jokes are art.
Viewpoints - onthecommons.us
Thanks to Steven Siegel for a comment pointing me to the full text of his article (abstract below) about the government role in mandating private residential government. This link goes to Shu Bartholomew's "On the Commons" site (the Viewpoints page) where you can scroll down a bit and download the article. You can also get Steven's earlier and equally excellent article on the Constitution and private governments.
CAI Headlines
Here is what I think is a new feature for CAI's website: a page of headlines and links to HOA stories around the nation. Thanks to Fred Pilot for the pointer.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Northwest Herald - Local News and Video for McHenry County, Illinois - Hilton’s authority questioned
Here's more neighborhood intrigue dug up by Fred Pilot, this one just down the road from me in McHenry County. I have no data except what I have seen, but I think dissolution of HOAs and other nonprofits happens reasonably often because of the way the Secretary of State operates. As the attorney quoted farther down says, they dissolve the corporation if you fail to file the annual report or don't pay your fees, or just fail to sign the form. They reinstate you if you correct the errors and pay a fee, and then you have to re-record your forms with the county recorder.

WONDER LAKE – Dick Hilton laughed as he saw someone post a sign stating, “Fraud: Remove Hilton Today,” near the Master Property Owners Association office in Wonder Lake. Hilton, president of the MPOA, said he knew before the organization’s meeting Wednesday that efforts to remove him from his position would fail. The validity of whether Hilton should be president of the MPOA recently came into question after it was discovered that he was the director of an involuntarily dissolved property owners association named Wooded Shores Property Owners Association Inc. Only an association director is allowed to be the president of the MPOA. Wooded Shores Property Owners Association Inc. was dissolved for unknown reasons by the secretary of state in September 2002, MPOA attorney Dean Krone said.
BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Map reveals ancient urban sprawl
If you read between the lines of this story, it seems to suggest that instead of living in large, sprawling cities, we should live in small, self-sufficient communities with their own governments. Kind of like...well, you know.

The great medieval temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia was once at the centre of a sprawling urban settlement, according to a new, detailed map of the area..."The large-scale city engineered its own downfall by disrupting its local environment by expanding continuously into the surrounding forests," said Damian Evans of the University of Sydney and one of the authors of the paper and map.
Neighborhoods' Effect On Grades Challenged - washingtonpost.com
Many social reformers have long said that low academic achievement among inner-city children cannot be improved significantly without moving their families to better neighborhoods, but new reports released today that draw on a unique set of data throw cold water on that theory. Researchers examining what happened to 4,248 families that were randomly given or denied federal housing vouchers to move out of their high-poverty neighborhoods found no significant difference about seven years later between the achievement of children who moved to more middle-class neighborhoods and those who didn't.
Global warming pre-SUV
D.C. resident John Lockwood was conducting research at the Library of Congress and came across an intriguing Page 2 headline in the Nov. 2, 1922 edition of The Washington Post: "Arctic Ocean Getting Warm; Seals Vanish and Icebergs Melt."
HillaryClinton.com - Housing
Hillary Clinton has a plan to save the housing market from mortgage foreclosures.

Senator Clinton's plan will curb mortgage abuses, assist families facing foreclosure, and expand affordable housing to protect the American dream of home ownership. She will introduce her plan when Congress returns in September.
Los Angeles Times: LA Land Blog : The rapidly changing landscape of the Los Angeles real estate market: "Southern California home sales continued to slump in July, falling 27% from year-ago levels, and are now running 54% below peak levels reached in July 2003, DataQuick reported today. Some industry experts have warned that August sales may be even weaker, given the widening credit squeeze that has spread to non-subprime mortgages."
Blood in the water in Florida property market | Reuters
cbs2chicago.com - Alderman Wants To Tax Bottled Water
This illustrates the point I've been making about the advantage cities have over HOAs. With this general "police power" and home rule, they can conjure up a tax on just about anything and anybody whenever they need more money. Now it is a "sin tax" on a new vice created by environmentalists: drinking bottled water. What next? Why not a tax on meat? (Save the rain forests!) How about a quarter for every quarter pounder? Or maybe on leather (Save the animals!). Or taking too many showers? (Save the water!) The Chicago Tribune today even (half-jokingly) proposed a huge tax on driving SUVs into the city.
The Public Role in Establishing Private Residential Communities:
I started a mini-debate with some comments about CAI having a perfect right to engage in lobbying. This led to another mini-debate over whether CAI is responsible for the spread of CIDs. The fact is that government, not CAI, has been the major promoter of CID housing. The FHA and other federal agencies promoted HOAs from the early 1960s on, and now municipalities, in conjunction with developers, are driving the spread of private governments. The best analysis of municipal mandates for CID development is Steven Siegel's recent law review article for Urban Lawyer, published by the American Bar Association (abstract follows). Conspiracy theories to the contrary notwithstanding, the fact is that CAI is not hatching more CIDs in an underground laboratory in the Arctic.

"Steven Siegel, The Public Role in Establishing Private Residential Communities: Towards a New Formulation of Local Government Land Use Policies That Eliminate the Legal Requirements to Privatize New Communities in the United States, 38 Urb. Law. 859 (Fall 2006). This article examines the critical and insufficiently understood role that government plays in the widespread and ever-growing establishment of private residential communities in the United States, particularly in the high-growth Sunbelt states. The author argues that local governments, on a broad scale and independent of market forces, effectively have required developers of new subdivisions to create community associations to operate and maintain the subdivision in lieu of the municipality providing traditionally municipal services to the subdivision, including such services as street maintenance, sewer service, water supply, drainage, curbside refuse collection, parks, and even traditional police patrols of public streets. This article aims to partly fill a gap in the literature and in the scholarly commentary. Part I catalogs and assesses the significant demographic, social, and economic factors that have contributed to the phenomenon of the explosive growth in the number of private communities in the United States. Part II traces the history of the PUD zoning concept and how this concept evolved from a mechanism to interject greater design flexibility into the zoning approval of new subdivisions into a vehicle for municipal privatization decisions affecting traditionally public facilities and services. Part III sets forth substantial evidence of the active and direct role played by local governments, through the exercise of their plenary regulation of new residential development, in the rise of the territorial community association as the standard template for new community development in the fastest growing areas of the United States. In Part IV the focus of the inquiry shifts from the empirical to the normative. In particular, the author identifies the adverse effects of a municipal land use policy that effectuates the privatization of the operation and maintenance of traditionally municipal infrastructure by way of the de facto or de jure requirement that a subdivision developer establish a community association (to operate the infrastructure) as a condition of subdivision approval. Part V explores potential judicial remedies as well as legislative policy recommendations aimed at reducing the future municipal imposition of public service exactions in new community development, as well as mitigating the effects of public service exactions in existing communities. If the public role in enabling private residential communities were to be more clearly delineated and analyzed (as this article seeks to do), then the groundwork can be laid for serious public discussion of the future of new community development in the United States and for a thorough and public assessment of what has been called “the most significant privatization of local government responsibilities in recent times.”"
‘Pull ’em up or pay up’ is new law in Mansfield: The Shreveport Times
Here is a town cracking down on saggin' and baggin':

Anyone caught wearing sagging pants who exposes his or her underwear will be subject to a fine of up to $150 plus court costs, or face up to 15 days in jail. Mansfield aldermen voted unanimously at today’s 4:30 p.m. meeting to enact the new law.
Tell Ben Stein it Ain't Subprime: The American Prospect
Mystery Reader sends this cogent but disturbing analysis of the mortgage and housing situation from Dean Baker:

NYT columnist Ben Stein tells everyone that they [are] being Chicken Littles because they are worried about the fallout from the subprime meltdown. Mr. Stein calculates that of the $10.4 trillion in outstanding mortgages, only about 13 percent or $1.35 trillion is subprime. Of this, only about 5 percent, or $67 billion is actually in foreclosure. If the losses on foreclosed loans is 50 percent then we're talking about $33 to $34 billion. That's not a lot of money in a $14 trillion economy. The problem is that the Chicken Littles are a bit better at logic than Mr. Stein. The subprimes are melting down because house prices are worth less than mortgages. This is leading to rapidly increasing default rates in the Alt-A and prime markets as well. It does not make a lot of sense to payoff a $600,000 mortgage on a home that's worth $400,000. The problems are showing up today in the subprime market because these are the people with the least resources and therefore the ones who are first forced into default. However, as time goes by, and more homeowners realize the situation they are in, the subprime meltdown will turn into the prime meltdown. The chicken littles know this, which is why the markets are panicking.

Monday, August 13, 2007

FOXNews.com - Federal Reserve Finds Banks Tightening Mortgage Lending Standards - Real Estate News | Mortgage Information | House Hunting
At this point it doesn't look like the specific changes affecting lower-risk borrowers are that dramatic. But the high-risk borrowers do seem to be encountering significant hurdles. Until recently many builders were acting as mortgage banks and making many of these risky loans that have led to foreclosures. Read that Business Week article I referenced below. I thought the S & L meltdown taught people that developers shouldn't be able to lend people money to buy houses from them, but I guess history had to repeat itself.

WASHINGTON — The nation’s banks, in response to the subprime lending mess, are making it tougher for high-risk borrowers to get mortgages they can’t afford, and are moving to tighten lending standards across the board — even for borrowers with good credit. The Fed said it found that 56.3 percent of banks responding to a survey reported that they had tightened their lending standards for subprime mortgages, loans offered to borrowers with weak credit histories. But the tightening of the mortgage-lending belt is pinching more than just the less-than-creditworthy loan seekers. The Fed survey found that even on prime loans, which offer traditional payment options such as 30-year mortgages to borrowers with strong credit histories, 14.3 percent of the banks responding said they had tightened their lending standards "somewhat."
Katrina Aid Used for Luxury Condos - TIME
Looks like the feds decided to do their part to support community association housing.

(TUSCALOOSA, Ala.)—With large swaths of the Gulf Coast still in ruins from Hurricane Katrina, rich federal tax breaks designed to spur rebuilding are flowing hundreds of miles inland to investors who are buying up luxury condos near the University of Alabama's football stadium.
Man arrested for assaulting neighbor for not joining exercise session - MSN-Mainichi Daily News
So you think your community association is meddlesome? Count your blessings:

KANDA, Fukuoka -- A man was arrested Monday after assaulting a neighbor who refused to participate in a gymnastic exercise event organized by the neighborhood association, police said. Katsuya Mori, 34, a company employee of Kanda, stands accused of inflicting bodily injury and damaging property. The incident occurred on Aug. 1 this year. Mori visited a 35-year-old self-employed man's home in Kanda when he was drunk, and hit him, investigators said. Mori then hurled a concrete chunk at the victim's 5-year-old daughter and threatened to kill her. At the time, Mori criticized the neighbor for refusing to participate in a radio gymnastic exercise session for summer vacation organized by the neighborhood association. Mori serves as vice president of the organization. "Come to the exercise session," Mori was quoted as shouting at the victim's home. "You never cooperate even though I'm enthusiastically organizing the event." Mori then summoned the victim to his own home and hit him with a golf club, leaving him with injuries that took seven days to heal. (Mainichi)
Details on the NASA climate date correction
Thanks to Tom Skiba for this link to an article explaining that many of the hottest years on record occurred before WWII, contrary to what has been said many times about the hottest years being much more recent.
Bar association works to put softer, friendlier face on maligned profession
This is what I was talking about earlier in reference to CAI--a trade association that constantly works to improve the public image of its membership and the clients they serve. Here we have a professional association, the Allegheny County Bar Association, trying to improve the public image of its membership by hiring a flack--excuse me, a director of media and public relations--to change the way people perceive attorneys. Nothing wrong with trying to do that. It won't work, though, because people's minds are already made up. The big difference is that the bar association admits what it is doing, and CAI always seems somewhat reluctant to admit even the undeniable fact that it is a trade association, much less that, like every other trade association, it is trying to shape public perceptions.
Townhall.com::A Bridge Too Far Gone::By Thomas Sowell
Here is a provocative piece by Thomas Sowell who says that the solution to deteriorating public infrastructure is to privatize it. I understand how the theory works: if there is profit in it, private investors do what is necessary to realize that profit, and that produces greater efficiency. He also trots out the age-old economists argument about the electoral incentives that lead politicians to spend our money in a self-serving fashion. Sometimes privatization saves money and improves service, and I would be first in line to advocate it for goods where pricing will work. That would likely be true where it is possible to prevent people from acquiring the good without paying, such as with bridge tolls, and where you don't have market failure, significant symbolic concerns, humanitarian issues, or externalities that militate in favor of public provision. But it seems that sometimes the incentives end up not being exactly what the economists envision. Deregulation of the savings and loan industry worked out a bit differently than planned. Do you like the way airline deregulation has worked out? And whenever people point out examples like this, the answer is that government was still a little bit involved, instead of being entirely excluded. So it seems like economists never will have to admit that privatization has failed, anywhere, until government goes away entirely. In other words, never.

In the case of the massive amount of private infrastructure we already have in CIDs, I think we are looking down the barrel of a major problem caused by incentive structures that favor inadequate reserves, an insufficient supply of quality volunteer leadership, and a number of professionals (by no means all of them) who are enriching themselves by focusing on their own interests rather than those of the communities they are supposed to be serving. But when it happens, watch the privatizers blame the whole thing on government regulation. And to some extent, there may well be truth in that argument at some point--but it will never be the whole problem.
ICEHOTEL® From the Ice Age to the present
As a follow up to the Dubai ice bar story I blogged about, Mystery Reader has defrosted this story about an entire frozen hotel in JukkasjÀrvi. You know where that is, of course? At least it was cold there to start with.
Bonfire of the Builders
Check out this week's print edition of Business Week for "Bonfire of the Builders." It shows how "the rush by builders into mortgage lending only exacerbated the current housing mess." There is also a companion article on the increase in construction defect and related claims by owners. Seems there are two owner organizations on the web: HomeOwners for Better Building and Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings. I wonder whether the construction defect owners and the HOA advocates will ever decide to join forces. If you put them together with seniors and consumer advocates, you would really have a powerful movement. But the problem is always that people want to be the head of their own organization and focus on their own particular issues.
Death drops scythe, adopts 'softer' look - World - brisbanetimes.com.au
As any good public relations person can tell you, there is nothing like an image makeover.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Fathers Create Bulletproof Backpacks - News Story - WCVB Boston
Attorney David Kahne and I were talking over the phone a couple of weeks ago and he said he was concerned about an apparent willingness of Americans to give up liberty to get more of a sense of security. I see his point. Look at the changes in our culture over the last couple of decades: gated communities, street corner surveillance cameras, increased government power to eavesdrop on communications, greater police power to search and arrest and detain, and now...bulletproof kiddie backpacks.
Foreclosures may spur price drops: On L.A.'s edges, soaring repossessions could set off a downward spiral. - Los Angeles Times
Can't get worse, you say? Think again. So says the LA Times. And consider that this is mostly new housing on the urban fringe, meaning mainly CIDs. So, if people are defaulting on their mortgages, what is happening to the coffers of their HOAs? I realize the associations have liens for unpaid assessments, but it seems that generally speaking there isn't a lot of equity to go around, and you can't get blood from a stone.

Major lenders are repossessing homes in Southern California much faster than they can sell them, a development that could set off a downward spiral of price cuts and more foreclosures. At some point -- maybe this fall, maybe in 2008 -- the lenders' inventories will grow so large that they will have no choice but to start aggressively cutting prices, many agents and analysts predict. That, in turn, will put more pressure on individual sellers, who will have to reduce their own prices if they want to find a buyer. As values fall, more people could lose their homes, which would swell the lenders' inventories anew.
Dare's role in Pastures cost association $100,000 - Albany NY
Another property manager financial scandal, this one from New York, unearthed by Fred Pilot:

ALBANY -- An advocate for the Historic Pastures Homeowners Association, which lost more than $100,000 in association dues from the mismanagement of the properties by Aaron R. Dare, said federal authorities have refused to identify the group as a crime victim, weakening their efforts to obtain restitution. Dare, 38, who bought the properties in August 2002 as part of an illicit $8 million scheme, defaulted on the mortgage shortly after it was approved. Still, he continued collecting rents, association dues and rent deposits, and had instructed his property managers to encourage tenants to pay their various fees in cash, according to federal court records and people who worked for him.
Charlotte Observer | 08/11/2007 | Everything's made of ice at Dubai bar
Hey, they got your answer to global warming right here...

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates --
Outside it was a sticky 111 degrees, but Ali Hamdan was shivering under two parkas as he sipped hot chocolate, surrounded by tables and chairs made of ice. Chillout, its owners say, is the Middle East's first ice lounge - the latest venture in this desert Gulf emirate, which has been transformed by a mania for the biggest, first or most outlandish.
Micro-managing the common man: Elites vs. humanity
Here is a right-wing ideological rant on the expansion of government at every level that includes HOAs as one of the enemies of individual freedom. Seems that HOAs are brought to you by the United Nations. Who knew? And she is still supporting Alan Keyes for President, even after he ran the worst Senate campaign in American history here in Illinois, against Barack Obama.

Private property, according to the United Nations, must only be in the hands of government. Private property ownership is to be disallowed on a global basis. This is the reason for homeowner associations, gated communities, private policing forces inside of homeowner associations and gated communities, condo living, etc. When you buy a house inside any of the above, you do not own the land upon which the house sits. You are therefore totally and completely at the mercy of your "association" rules and regulations, and you may, in fact, lose your homes for failure to follow whatever rules are set into place. So, on top of the private policing forces which exist to enforce the rules of the association (which means to control you), you are also vulnerable to the whims, desires, and prejudices of your homeowner association boards. Even though you bought your homes, you can be forced to leave by "consensus," which actually means by the opinion of those in power who happen to have armed back-up in the personage of private and armed policing forces. And once again, the United Nations, in a document called Agenda 21, states that all nations are to "relocate" their populations into "human settlements." Your homeowner associations are "human settlements," and you are totally controlled within these settlements — controlled by private policing forces and their association board consensus-crats. Welcome to the American version of Communist sectors. Welcome to Communitarian government.
Las Vegas SUN: Will anyone see the (solar) light?
Fred Pilot sent this story about how HOAs are not exactly jumping on the Al Gore eco-friendly bandwagon:

Even as a wave of green washes over America, as Al Gore wins an Oscar and Congress talks climate change, the sun gets so little respect. Even though it's been powering satellites and calculators for decades, solar technology is still a hard sell. Just ask Janie Lynn, president of Las Vegas -based Lighting and Electronic Designs Inc. - the company that designed the solar-powered running lights on the Luxor. Her company is trying to persuade valley homeowners associations that use costly decorative gas lamps to replace them with solar ones.