When I first started writing about CIDs, I realized that there were two sets of issues I wanted to write about, and I divided them into micropolitics and macropolitics. Micropolitics means all the things that go on inside associations that are ruled by private governments, and for me the most important issues have to do with the relationship between unit owners and their BOD. Macropolitics refers to the relationship between associations and the rest of society, such as governments and developers. One important issue of macropolitics is to what extend this type of real estate development contributes to segregation--by race, income, age, and other factors.
Both these issue areas are important. Unfortunately, many people are intensely interested in issues of micropolitics, but don't care about the macropolitics issues at all. This is really too bad. It speaks to a lack of political awareness that undermines a lot of the activism people are involved with. When people trot off to the state capitol to make impassioned pleas for the rights of CID unit owners, claiming oppression at the hands of BODs and professionals, they run into legislators who may be unsympathetic. Why? Because they are thinking of these activists as over-privileged homeowners who have voluntarily isolated themselves from the rest of society in exclusive enclaves, and who now want to remake the deal they agreed to.When I tried to interest foundations in studying this subject and doing adult education, I ran into the same stereotype there.
Over the years I have done everything I could to dismantle that perception. I have written and talked about municipal mandates, adhesion contracts, lack of choice in the housing market, conscripting moderate and even low income people into condos and townhomes, and so forth. But the perception is still there.
I think if owner activists tried to link their causes with those of other interest groups that have larger concerns and broader constituencies, such as consumers, seniors, affordable housing advocates, for example, it would make their activism more effective. It would help to dispel the spoiled rich suburbanite/gated community stereotype.
I also think that people need to give more thought to association finances. This is both micro and macro politics. How can you claim to be an advocate for owner interests if your burning passion is to see associations disintegrate financially from being unable to collect overdue assessments? The owners you claim to care about are the ones who would get hurt. The issue is not whether they should be able to collect assessments from every owner. Of course they should, because the owners who pay end up carrying the burden of those who don't. And defunct associations hurt all the owners and the surrounding communities, with some level of local government left with the problems. The issues that need attention are about how and what associations should be able to collect--what practices are unfair or abusive, how should assessment levels be determined, what fees and charges should be permissible, etc.
Finally--this type of housing is not going away. It is here to stay. In fact, it has been spreading all over the world. Spending time and energy trying to abolish CID housing is unproductive and reveals a lack of understanding of why this is happening. Local governments are not going to go back to the days when they used taxing and bonding capability to build and maintain the infrastructure needed to support private residential development. They are too busy trying to find money to fill potholes and keep bridges from collapsing. Developers, state legislators, lenders, and federal bureaucrats have institutionalized CID housing and will continue to be the norm in new construction in the years to come.