Saturday, March 28, 2015

Homeowners face HOA fines for children playing in driveway and on sidewalk

No, really.  It's true.  Having solved all other problems, this HOA has decided to prevent children from playing.  Why would anybody, with children or not, live in a place like this?

 "Some Chula Vista homeowners contacted Team 10, furious that their homeowners association is fining them if their children are caught playing outside on the driveway or sidewalk. Under the Agave and Saguaro HOA's rules, there are no wheeled toys -- including, but not limited to, bicycles, scooters, rollerblades, skateboards or roller skates -- allowed to be ridden in the HOA's common areas. Common areas include driveways, sidewalks and streets in the complex. According to the property manager, it's for safety reasons, but resident Karen Deviolini said, "You're fined because you live in a place where kids can't be kids."

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Is suburban sprawl stifling the US economy?

This Vox article references a number of studies that suggest the answer may be "yes."

What is the most private city in the world?

London?  Dubai?  The new cities in the US that are comprised of private, gated communities?

"The word “private” is derived from the ancient Greek word idiotes, which means somebody who does not participate in public life. In ancient Greece, private life was confined to the home; the public, democratic life of citizens took place in the polis or city, and in the agora or assembly. The contemporary gated community, which focuses on privatising the experience of home as much as possible, fits well within this classical definition of private. There are literally millions of people living in gated communities: they have become the model of choice in the many societies around the world that are subject to extreme wealth inequalities."

How Wall Street used swaps to get rich at the expense of cities

Thanks to a helpful correspondent for flagging this.  Since the late 1970s cities have been trying to find ways to compensate for lost revenue sources.  The property tax revolt, suburbanization, loss of federal grants in aid, globalization of the economy, and other forces have left many cities in  precarious condition. CIDs are one of those compensation strategies.  And here is another one:  cities are getting hooked up with Wall Street investment banks that promise to create gains by engaging in interest rate swaps.  For example,  a city has outstanding fixed rate municipal bonds, and an investment bank--Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, or another one of these financial vampires--proposes to swap them for variable rate bonds that are linked to LIBOR or some other index, that pays the bond holders a lower interest rate.  Sounds good, right?  Except that local governments have been known to lose  a fortune doing it.  Chicago, led by former Wall Streeter and now Mayor Rahm Emanuel,  is in deep on these swaps.  Emanuel thinks he's smarter than everybody. But the swaps aren't turing out  to be such a good deal. Here's a detailed article taking the whole thing apart.

And for the worst case scenario, consider Jefferson County, Alabama.   After a series of swaps orchestrated by J. P. Morgan to pay for a new sewer system, they went bankrupt.   Until Detroit, it  was the largest local government bankruptcy in US history.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Condo requiring DNA samples of all pets so they can test their poop!

"The Rotunda, a condominium building in Tyson's Corner, Virginia has implemented a policy in which all new pet owners who are moving into the building will be required to have their animal's mouths swabbed in the presence of a building authority. If pet waste is discovered outside of the building, the waste will then be tested and matched up to the guilty animal's DNA."
Actually this nonsense has been going on for some time.  Obviously people should clean up after their dogs, but somehow in my HOA-free neighborhood everybody nearly always does.  Now there are companies peddling this silly service and of course all the costs end up falling on the owner of the miscreant dog.  Increasingly life for the American middle class is one boondoggle after another--red light cameras, usurious loans, grifting cable TV companies, fake calls threatening IRS suits, and of course chiseling condo associations and HOAs.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Garden City movement aims at accreditation

The Garden City movement was the inspiration for common interest housing. Ebenezer Howard, a 19th century utopian thinker, wanted to build new, self-sufficient cities on undeveloped land that would allow people to have  the best of city and country living in one place under a benevolent managerial government.. Two of these cities, Letchworth and Welwyn, were built, and the idea came to the US, where real estate developers took it in a differert direction. I tell that story in my first book on HOAs.  But the Garden City Movement still exists, as evidenced by this artcle concerning an attempt to create accreditation for "real" Garden Cities.  They even have a Letchworth Declaration that lays out the governing principles.