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.