Friday, December 08, 2017

What Happened to the American Boomtown? - The New York Times

What Happened to the American Boomtown? - The New York Times: "Interstate mobility nationwide has slowed over the last 30 years. But, more specifically and of greater concern, migration has stalled in the very places with the most opportunity...The places that are booming in size aren’t the economic boomtowns — the regions with the greatest prosperity and highest productivity. In theory, we’d expect those metros, like the Bay Area, Boston and New York, to be rapidly expanding, as people move from regions with high unemployment and meager wages to those with high salaries and strong job markets. That we’re not seeing such a pattern suggests that something is fundamentally amiss. The magnets aren’t working. "
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The article contends that the culprit is the cost and availability of housing in the places with the most opportunity. And that happens because the people who live in those places oppose new housing construction. San Francisco would have a much greater population if those who already live there weren't able to block residential real estate development--so the argument goes.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Special report: Can we build our way out of the housing crisis? - The San Diego Union-Tribune

Special report: Can we build our way out of the housing crisis? - The San Diego Union-Tribune: "San Diego County should be awash in new housing projects.

Unemployment is low and wages are rising. Many millennials are marrying, having children and aiming to buy. Their parents want to downsize.

But the market is not responding.

Last year only about 10,000 housing units were approved, and most were for rent, not for-sale homes and condos."

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The article suggests that anti-growth sentiments and lack of land zoned residential are the main problems, along with developers being afraid that if they build condos or HOA housing, the association will sue them for construction defects. I'm just spitballing here, but maybe they could try building them without defects, instead of cutting corners and lobbying for the legislature to take away the right of consumers to sue.

Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Vancouver’s “Radical” Housing Plan Makes Waves – Next City

Vancouver’s “Radical” Housing Plan Makes Waves – Next City: "It involves densifying areas that are currently stocked with single-family homes, restricting property ownership by nonpermanent residents and creating zones of rental-only housing."

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Vancouver has a lot of condos as it is, but: "“We’ve had more than enough supply, and yet the housing costs have gone crazy,” the author concluded. (It’s important to make the distinction, however, between housing for sale and housing for rent. Vancouver’s construction boom has been condominium-heavy, and its rental vacancy rate remains among the lowest in the world.)"

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Supervisors to vote on rescinding sale of private street in Presidio Heights - Story | KTVU

Supervisors to vote on rescinding sale of private street in Presidio Heights - Story | KTVU

"The wealthy homeowner's plight has drawn little sympathy in the wider community, with several speakers arguing today that the association was at fault and lambasting the board's support of the wealthy.  Ronen, in particular, argued against rescinding the sale, noting that the homeowner's association had lost the property once before in the 1980s for the same reason. "This case has viscerally impacted San Franciscans because there's no discretion in the law when it comes to poor people, there's no discretion in the law when it comes to people of color," she said, noting that most city residents did not enjoy private access to their streets and sidewalks."

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This was fun while it lasted.


Bay City bar countersues condo owners for harassment | MLive.com

Bay City bar countersues condo owners for harassment | MLive.com

The condo owners sued because of the noise from the bar, so the bar owner sued the owners. This is going well.

Monday, November 27, 2017

South Africa: Gated Communities and Privatised Privilege - allAfrica.com

South Africa: Gated Communities and Privatised Privilege - allAfrica.com

"Attempts to privatise privilege by invoking the law of contract or property law speaks of a pre-constitutional mindset associated with a particularly toxic strand of liberalism. In terms of this view, the wealthy and socially privileged can largely opt out of ordinary legal obligations and the non-discrimination provisions of the Constitution. You can do this (according to a widely held, but false, belief) by buying and/or managing private property according to a set of rules "agreed" to by the property owners and by those who "voluntary" frequent these properties. All you have to do (according to this surprisingly persistent myth) is to invoke what has become an empty platitude ("right of admission is reserved") and - magically! - you have become exempt from any constitutional or other legal obligations."


Brookhaven reverses vote to prohibit gated community - Reporter Newspapers

Brookhaven reverses vote to prohibit gated community - Reporter Newspapers

But they are going to develop a policy on this: "[T] he city will work toward creating a broad policy to consider whether the city should allow future gated communities as it works to create connectivity and promote walkability."

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Malibu church to stop helping the homeless because city tells them it "lures the needy"


The United Methodist Church, one of many churches that provides food and help, has been offering free meals twice a week. But it said it was going to stop after being told the meal servicewas luring too many homeless people.
Dawn Randall, a member of the church, said it recently received an email from city officials. “Very succinctly, they claimed we are increasing homelessness,” she told CBS.
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Malibu is a ritzy beach suburb north of Los Angeles. I guess the city wants the homeless to go back to East Third Street in downtown LA. 

South African gated communities socked for "draconian" practices

https://www.iol.co.za/sunday-tribune/news/gatedestates-a-victory-against-arrogant-draconian-rules-12065349

DURBAN - Property tycoon Niemesh Singh is prepared to fight the Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate in the highest court should they appeal against a landmark high court judgment against gated estates.

On Friday, Singh successfully contested the “draconian rules”, including restrictions placed on the movement of domestic workers at the swish estate, in court this week. He said he was prepared for the “journey against arrogance”.

Residents were fined when their domestic workers were found walking on the pristine pathways, or when motorists failed to adhere to the 40km/h speed limit when driving on the estate’s roads.
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Malaysian criminals operating from gated communities

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/free-from-cops-criminals-now-running-business-from-gated-communities#FCDsJeOyw5lm9J73.97

JOHOR BARU, Nov 25 ― Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed revealed today that criminals are now operating from the safety of gated and guarded residential areas.
The deputy home minister said there have been cases of telephone scams, online gambling, human trafficking and also drug labs there since the police cannot go after them inside.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

CondoGate: Is there a Scandal in your Community Association? - Realty Times

CondoGate: Is there a Scandal in your Community Association? - Realty Times

Attorney Benny Kass weighs in on a matter that people ask me about frequently.

Condos out, apartments in | Articles | News | OakPark.com

Condos out, apartments in | Articles | News | OakPark.com

"It was a golden age for condo conversions in the Chicago area in the 1980s and 90s, but the financial crash of 2008, changing demographics and a hot market for rental units has sent the pendulum swinging in the other direction. The real estate trend is now toward condo deconversions or bulk sales – where condo buildings are being converted back into rentals – also is taking place in Oak Park."

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And in addition to a stronger market for rentals, the trend toward deconversion is driven by the failure of condo associations:  "The challenge we see now on the condo side are non-functioning condo associations," he said, adding that they often "don't have the money to pay for the work that's needed." Hess said CIC is in the early stages of determining whether to establish a fund to lend to these troubled condo associations."
Another interviewee, an attorney, pointed out other problems:  "Planek said tenants are steering away from condos in favor of rentals for a number of reasons: high taxes and assessments; increased desire for mobility; and lack of interest in being involved in condo associations."

Monday, November 20, 2017

Saudi Arabia Just Announced Plans to Build a Mega City That Will Cost $500 Billion - Bloomberg

Saudi Arabia Just Announced Plans to Build a Mega City That Will Cost $500 Billion - Bloomberg:



"Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced plans to build a new city on the Red Sea coast, promising a lifestyle not available in today’s Saudi Arabia as he seeks to remake the kingdom in a time of dwindling resources. The prince said the city project, to be called “NEOM,” will operate independently from the “existing governmental framework” with investors consulted at every step during development. The project will be backed by more than $500 billion from the Saudi government, its sovereign wealth fund and local and international investors, according to a statement released on Tuesday at an international business conference in Riyadh."

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The Saudi government is trying to diversity their economy as they plan for a post-oil world. They are using a $2 trillion (!) sovereign wealth fund to get involved in many investments, including infrastructure projects all over the world. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Local HOA finds large sum of unclaimed money, 10 News Find...

Local HOA finds large sum of unclaimed money, 10 News Find...:

"A Blacksburg homeowners association that has more than 100 members recently discovered it had a six-figure paycheck it never knew about."

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It seems that a previous treasurer from ten years ago put stocks and CDs in a safe deposit box, then left, and nobody knew about it.

Fire, death leads to Bay Pointe HOA tussle in Mason with Rentz Management

Fire, death leads to Bay Pointe HOA tussle in Mason with Rentz Management:

I won't try to summarize this saga, but it is an awful story. A more accurate headline is in USA Today: "Phoenix condo owners fight $15,000 plus HOA assessments--and win."

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Remunicipalisation of Water Services in Paris, France - futurepolicy.org

The Remunicipalisation of Water Services in Paris, France - futurepolicy.org:



"On 24 November 2008, against exponentially rising water prices, a severe lack of transparency, and poor accountability, the City Council of Paris decided not to renew its municipal water supply contracts with the private companies Veolia and Suez (two of the French powerhouses in global water services), instead remunicipalising water to be under public control.  The production and supply of Paris’ water was unified under the public entity Eau de Paris, which assumed operations of the whole system from 2010 onwards. Despite the major financial, labour and logistical challenges that the city faced, the transition was managed on time with no difference in terms of service to the end user and impressive financial savings for the people of Paris, and surplus profits have been reinvested for the further development of the city’s water infrastructure. This policy has shown that remunicipalisation of water services can be successful on a grand scale."

Monday, November 13, 2017

Phoenix Landmark condo owners fight HOA assessments — and win

Phoenix Landmark condo owners fight HOA assessments — and win: "The HOA assessment for a new HVAC system would have cost each of them at least $15,000 per condo. Many other owners in the 236-condo high-rise said the same thing as Hardaway: They could not afford the assessment, and it could cost them their home."

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They got a judge to overturn the assessment, but this isn't over. Apparently the work still needs to be done. There is an ongoing issue of what work, how much, and how to pay for it. But it is yet another example of huge special assessments that seem to be more and more common.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Op-Ed: New York Needs a New Deal - News | Planetizen

Op-Ed: New York Needs a New Deal - News | Planetizen

From water mains to public buildings, much of the infrastructure in use in the city today is 60-80 years old, Chaban explains. New York would need to spend $47 billion just to reach a state of good repair across the board, he writes, noting that "any major expansion or sweeping modernization would cost billions more."
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The whole country is in a similar situation, especially every big city. We have two infrastructure crises--one is public and the other is private. The crisis of public infrastructure is well-documented, and people are trying to find ways to solve it. But there is a little-known crisis of private infrastructure. Some of that private infrastructure is in HOAs and condo associations, where there isn't enough money to repair or replace it. There are also some big privatized pieces of infrastructure, such as toll highways, bridges, and many other systems. They are in the hands of private corporations that, in most cases, leased it for 75-99 years. And when it starts to go bad, these corporations don't want to pay for it. They want to sell off their lease or go bankrupt. All this private infrastructure has to be maintained and eventually rebuilt. It seems to me that this crisis of private infrastructure is not being thought about or planned for. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Deep Question Behind Rand Paul's 'Trivial' Dispute - Bloomberg

The Deep Question Behind Rand Paul's 'Trivial' Dispute - Bloomberg: "If Skaggs is accurately representing the senator’s views (not to mention the cause of the dispute), Paul has a highly selective idea of property rights. His get-out-of-my-face version of libertarianism doesn’t seem to respect the crucially important freedom to make, and responsibility to respect, contracts.


Your property rights don’t give you the freedom to violate your homeowners association contract specifying how to maintain your lawn any more than my free-expression rights give me the freedom to violate the Bloomberg contract saying I can’t write for The Wall Street Journal. If you can’t live with the restrictions, you don’t sign the contract. And if your neighbor isn’t sticking to the rules, you don’t go after him with your fists. You take it up with the homeowners association -- that most local version of politics."

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The problem with this argument is that in most cases HOA and condo association buyers don't "sign" any contract to join the association. They just buy the home, and membership is automatic, so these associations are mandatory-membership organizations, not voluntary associations. It is increasingly common for buyers to find that all the good options are in private communities.The law uses a legal fiction to classify them as voluntary, but in fact that isn't completely true for many people.

Rand Paul may be one of those people who believes that he has the full bundle of property rights and can do whatever he chooses. But is it because he didn't know what he was getting into?  I doubt it. Rand Paul may be one of the few people who really did know and bargain for what he got, but who wants to act as he chooses. He isn't the average person. He is very rich and well educated and powerful. He can live wherever he chooses, and he built his own house in a gated community, where everybody is restricted. So if he wants his neighbors to be restricted, but doesn't want to be restricted himself, then there is a problem.

Then there is the supreme irony that he's a libertarian. Libertarians have been raving about how great HOAs are for the last fifty years. They love the idea that there is a "private" substitute for local governments. They think private, contract-based local government is utopia. 

So, even though I don't normally find that "freedom of choice" argument very persuasive, for somebody like Rand Paul, maybe it carries more weight.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Atlas Shrubbed - POLITICO Magazine

Atlas Shrubbed - POLITICO Magazine:

I love this. Application of the libertarian's favorite, the Coase Theorem, to Rand Paul's leaf-blowing dispute with his neighbor.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

America’s ‘Retail Apocalypse’ Is Really Just Beginning

America’s ‘Retail Apocalypse’ Is Really Just Beginning: "The root cause is that many of these long-standing chains are overloaded with debt—often from leveraged buyouts led by private equity firms. There are billions in borrowings on the balance sheets of troubled retailers, and sustaining that load is only going to become harder—even for healthy chains. The debt coming due, along with America’s over-stored suburbs and the continued gains of online shopping, has all the makings of a disaster. The spillover will likely flow far and wide across the U.S. economy. There will be displaced low-income workers, shrinking local tax bases and investor losses on stocks, bonds and real estate. If today is considered a retail apocalypse, then what’s coming next could truly be scary."

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They are talking about big retail chains with stores in cities all over the country that may close. For example, the map that goes with this story says that 26.8% of retail loans in Pittsburgh are delinquent. A number of big chains have filed for bankruptcy, including Toys R Us, Payless Shoes, Sports Authority, Radio Shack, and Circuit City.

Rand Paul not a perfect neighbor, developer says

Rand Paul not a perfect neighbor, developer says: "While there's no official word on what caused the fight, Skaggs suggested it might have stemmed from Paul allegedly blowing lawn trimmings into his neighbor's yard. 

There have been disagreements in the past, Skaggs said, over lawn clippings or who should cut down a tree branch when it stretched over a property line. The two men live on different streets but their lots join and their homes are 269 feet apart, according to Google Maps.

Skaggs described Boucher as a "near-perfect" neighbor, but he said the libertarian politician is a different story.

Paul "was probably the hardest person to encourage to follow the (homeowner's association regulations) of anyone out here because he has a strong belief in property rights," said Skaggs, who is the former chairman of the Warren County Republican Party. 

Skaggs noted the 13 pages of regulations are extensive. But even from the start of Paul's residence in Rivergreen, Skaggs said Paul has been difficult to work with. 

"The major problem was getting the house plans approved," Skaggs said. "He wanted to actually own the property rights and build any kind of house he wanted. He didn't end up doing that, but it was a struggle." "

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There's irony for you. Libertarian writers have been waxing poetic about the virtues of homeowner associations and gated communities for decades. But here we have the most famous libertarian politician in the USA who apparently doesn't fully appreciate the nirvana of private rules that he has freely chosen, as they keep insisting. Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link.

Condo disputes can now be resolved online | Toronto Star

Condo disputes can now be resolved online | Toronto Star: "Ontario's 1.6 million condo residents have a new avenue for settling disputes in their buildings and neighbourhoods. Last week, the province launched its first online tribunal to help resolve the complaints that arise in 10,000 condo corporations.

The Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT) provides direct access to mediators and adjudicators in a stepped process that begins with a $25 fee, although to start, it is only looking at issues related to accessing condo records."

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There are so many condo disputes that treating them like other civil matters through the judicial system is prohibitively expensive. That's why there are so many proposals to send them off into some form of alternative dispute resolution. Putting the process online is a fairly dramatic step, it seems.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Crime Trackers: HOA treasurer accused of stealing more than $200 - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

Crime Trackers: HOA treasurer accused of stealing more than $200 - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona: "GREEN VALLEY - A trusted member of the community is accused of ripping off a home owner's association in Green Valley.

79-year-old Wendell Byram allegedly stole more than $200,000, leaving homeowners in the lurch.

In April, Byram showed up at the Pima County Sheriff's department in Green Valley, admitted to the theft and turned himself in, investigators said.

A homeowner, who wants to remain anonymous, said they are very familiar with the case. They live in the neighborhood where Byram was the treasurer for the home owner's association for the last seven years. 

“He apparently had the full trust of the board members," the neighbor said. "They never asked to look at bank statements, and he kept two sets of books.”"

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Yet another one of these. When are state governments going to accept that HOA and condo association finances must be monitored in some fashion?

Nampa homeowners share their story after ugly HOA fight | KTVB.COM

Nampa homeowners share their story after ugly HOA fight | KTVB.COM: "NAMPA - It has been the center of attention in a Nampa neighborhood for over a year, but the days of a black wrought-iron fence will soon be coming to an end.

"The lawsuit has been settled, we are selling our home, and moving to a new subdivision, the fence is coming down," said Nampa homeowner Bekah Graves.

Bekah and her husband, Eric, have spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars battling the Shalimar Terrace homeowners association for the right to keep their powder-coated black ornamental steel fence around their property.

"It got to the point that financially, and emotionally, we just couldn't do it anymore," said Bekah Graves."

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And that's the way it usually goes. Homeowners decide at some point that it isn't worth fighting the association.

Subdivision easily approves HOA in step toward reclaiming lakes | News-Gazette.com

Subdivision easily approves HOA in step toward reclaiming lakes | News-Gazette.com: "CHAMPAIGN — Members of a northwest Champaign subdivision voted to form a homeowners association Monday night, putting them closer to regaining ownership of two retention basins that the county auctioned off without their knowledge.

The next step in the saga, which began in May, comes with a choice — attempt to legally reverse the auction sale or buy the basins back.

A packed room of Timberline Valley South residents voted 94-11 in favor of creating an HOA. The vote comes six months after Nasty Joe's LLC bought the two large retention basins for about $1,800 in a county auction, surprising many residents who didn't know the basins' drainage taxes hadn't been paid for years."

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These tax auctions are just bizarre.

Mt. Juliet mom outraged HOA rejected request to put Little Free Library in yard | WKRN News 2

Mt. Juliet mom outraged HOA rejected request to put Little Free Library in yard | WKRN News 2: "MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Mt. Juliet mother is outraged after her homeowner’s association rejected her request to put a Little Free Library in her front yard.

Six-year-old Maggie told News 2 she loves to read. She asked her mother if they could put a Little Free Library in their yard similar to one located a few miles from their Mt. Juliet home.

“I want to build a community library because I want kids to learn to love to read like me,” explained Maggie."

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The board says they "felt that it was not in keeping with the neighborhood," whatever that means.

Condo owners sue to close downtown Bay City bar | MLive.com

Condo owners sue to close downtown Bay City bar | MLive.com:

To the barricades!  The condo owners have a bar in the building and they don't like the noise. The condo association filed a lawsuit.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Was the Mysterious Attack on Rand Paul Politically Motivated? | Vanity Fair

Was the Mysterious Attack on Rand Paul Politically Motivated? | Vanity Fair:

Libertarian republican senator Rand Paul was attacked by his neighbor in the gated community where they live next door to each other.  I hope he recovers quickly, because it turns out that he suffered multiple broken ribs and a bruised lung. Paul's office says he was "blindsided" while mowing his lawn. There is also the suggestion that they have argued before. I don't think we have the whole story.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Former Albuquerque HOA President charged with embezzlement, forgery | KRQE News 13

Former Albuquerque HOA President charged with embezzlement, forgery | KRQE News 13: "Desiree Pepin, former president of the Los Colinas Homeowners Association, was arraigned on felony embezzlement and forgery charges more than three years after her neighbors took their case to Bernalillo County Sheriff’s detectives.

“It’s an excellent paper trail we have, we figured it’d be wrapped up pretty quickly, so it was extra frustrating when they kept stringing us along and not doing anything,” explained Konrad Dzula, current President of the Los Colinas HOA.

According to a civil complaint, as HOA President from 2002 to 2014, Pepin collected $30 membership dues from residents each month. Eventually, neighbors said they started receiving invoices with added fees.

“There was a pattern of this for like about six months where we would go from owing $30 to $180 and we didn’t know why,” said Matt Angel, who also lives in the subdivision...Online court records show this isn’t the first time Pepin’s been in trouble. Court records show she was convicted of forgery, fraud, and filing false insurance claims in 2003.

Court records also show Pepin was on probation, ordered to pay restitution to insurance companies during the same time she served as HOA president."

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People who didn't pay the bogus charges were threatened with liens and legal action, of course. And of course the residents who were being bilked had to move heaven and earth for three years to get a criminal case brought. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Infinite Suburbia | Newgeography.com

Infinite Suburbia | Newgeography.com: "Global urbanization is heading toward infinite suburbia. Around the world, the vast majority of people are moving to cities not to inhabit their centers but to suburbanize their peripheries. Thus, when the United Nations projects the number of future "urban" residents, or when researchers quantify the amount of land that will soon be "urbanized," these figures largely reflect the unprecedented suburban expansion of global cities. By 2030, an estimated nearly half a million square miles (1.2 million square kilometers) of land worldwide will become urbanized, especially in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In the United States alone, an additional 85,000 square miles (220,000 square kilometers) of rural land will be urbanized between 2003 and 2030. Given that these figures represent the conversion of currently rural land at the urban fringe, these lands are slated to become future suburbias."

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Thanks to Fred Pilot for this link. Two comments:

First, what happened to all the predictions about the "death of suburbia"? Those predictions were largely predicated on transportation costs that were going to go sky-high when the oil ran out and gas became so expensive that the middle class couldn't afford to commute to work. But then telecommunications made it easier for more people to work from home, and fracking came along, and oil prices plummeted. Then there was the glut of suburban housing after the overbuilding that led to the crash of 2008. Now it appears that suburban living is quite popular, not only in the US, but in developing nations.

Second, will CIDs continue to predominate in the new housing that is appearing all over the world? I think so, based on a number of international conferences that I have attended. I think the trend toward privatization of local government will continue, and this means addressing some of the enduring challenges, such as paying for the maintenance and replacement of costly private infrastructure systems.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Here’s where you’ll live when self-driving cars rule the roads - MarketWatch

Here’s where you’ll live when self-driving cars rule the roads - MarketWatch:

Have you ever wondered what life will be like when self-driving cars are the norm?

Calverton Hills homeowners sue county over outdated sewer system | Riverhead News Review

Calverton Hills homeowners sue county over outdated sewer system | Riverhead News Review: "Mr. Hotchkin said the unit owners do not own the sewer treatment plant and therefore can’t get financing or grants to pay for a new one. Instead, homeowners claim, the county has owned the plant since the community’s original owner, Nugent Building Corp., dissolved in 1980.

According to court documents, around 2007, the county health department advised homeowners at Calverton Hills that the treatment plant was not operating according to code. Documents submitted by the county say that “the common elements of the property” were deeded to the Calverton Hills Homeowners Association in 1990.

Additionally, the county said homeowners voluntarily entered into a consent agreement in 2007 to bring the sewer treatment system into compliance, according to court papers."

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I posted something on this a few days ago. There is a dispute regarding who is responsible for the sewer system, and there is a lot at stake. The county says it is time to fix the system, but the HOA says the owners don't have $7 million and can't come up with it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Bloomberg Aspen Initiative on Cities and Autonomous Vehicles

Bloomberg Aspen Initiative on Cities and Autonomous Vehicles: "As the pace of autonomous vehicle (AV) innovation picks up, cities have become the proving ground of choice. Tech giants, automakers, and startups alike are focused on cities because that is where future customers live and work.

This Atlas is the world’s first inventory of how cities around the globe are preparing for the transition to a world with AVs. As cities seek to learn from one another, they can look to this map for up-to-date information on what’s underway worldwide."

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Fascinating to see what is happening with self-driving cars around the world. This transportation revolution is happening, and it would be nice if the US could lead it, but the US national government is leaving it to cities, so probably China and the EU will be far in front.

And the same is true in other critical policy areas that relate to the future, and even the present. The US is losing its leadership role in world affairs and the global economy so fast that it is breathtaking.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Child deaths spike after DCFS privatizes 'intact family services' - Chicago Tribune

Child deaths spike after DCFS privatizes 'intact family services' - Chicago Tribune: "The mission of intact family services, which roughly 2,700 children are receiving statewide, is to offer counseling, resources and oversight to keep families together, instead of putting children through another trauma by removing them from the home and placing them with strangers.

The spike in deaths began in 2012 after DCFS completely privatized the program, putting the care of families in the hands of nonprofit groups but doing little to evaluate the quality of their work, give them guidance and resources, or hold them accountable when children were hurt or put at risk, the Tribune found."

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Unregulated privatization programs are among the worst examples of market fundamentalism run wild. This example is especially tragic.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Calverton homeowners sue Suffolk over sewage system demands | Newsday

Calverton homeowners sue Suffolk over sewage system demands | Newsday:

"Homeowners at a Calverton town house complex have filed a federal lawsuit against Suffolk County in a dispute over a sewage treatment system that serves the development’s homes. Leaders of the Calverton Hills Homeowners Association say the county is requiring residents to install a new wastewater plant that would cost about $7 million — far more than many residents can afford. Landlords said about half of the complex’s approximately 1,000 residents are on some form of public assistance, and some units are in foreclosure. “It’s going to be a financial hardship for a lot of families that have an income less than the median income,” said Michelle Janlewicz, who owns and rents out three units. “Most people already owe more than the property is worth.”"

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It appears that this sewer system was installed by the developer in 1973. In 2005, the country told them that the system doesn't meet discharge standards and it was the HOA's responsibility to pay for replacing it. The HOA got a $2 million estimate on replacing the sewer system, but didn't do it, and now there are additional requirements that led to today's estimate of about $7 million. The HOA has raised $500,000-$600,000, but all they did is raise the assessments by $30 per month, which is small change compared to what associations typically do when they have to specially assess for major expenditures. Now they are suing to force the county--i.e., the taxpayers of the whole country--to pay for a new sewer system for this subdivision, which I suspect is unlikely to work. The county is saying that if the HOA doesn't pay for this and get it installed, they will close the subdivision.

I have been saying forever that many associations are going to go under because they don't have enough money in reserves to pay for inevitable repair and replacement of major private infrastructure for which they are responsible. People buy into associations with no understanding of the financial risk. Eventually things wear out, and the people who happen to own the units when that happens get stuck with the bill. This is why associations are supposed to get reserve studies done. It's tragic to see these situations, but unfortunately we will be seeing a lot more as the years go by. And this is why the whole subject of private infrastructure needs to be viewed as a public policy issue.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Disabled veteran kicked out of heated HOA meeting - KTNV.com Las Vegas

Disabled veteran kicked out of heated HOA meeting - KTNV.com Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) - A meeting to discuss the future of a popular park in the northwest part of the valley ended with two people being kicked out after things got heated.
Pop Squires Park is part of an HOA, but many in the public also enjoy it.  It's why many people were interested in a meeting hosted by Councilwoman Michele Fiore at the YMCA to discuss saving the park from being redeveloped into apartments.
Some at the meeting claimed as the meeting began, Fiore was hostile from the start, explaining that her staff was bullied and attacked at a previous meeting, and that this was a private HOA meeting and anyone there being disrupted would be removed.
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Insane right winger Michele Fiore, who made news for her coziness with the Bundy "ranch" anarchists, went full fascist at an HOA meeting and ordered public law enforcement officers to eject people from a private HOA meeting. 

Reclaiming Public Services | Transnational Institute

Reclaiming Public Services | Transnational Institute:

There is something called "remunicipalization," which means deprivatizing public services, and it is going on around the world where people decided that privatization wasn't working. One example is Paris, where they deprivatized their water system.  You can find many examples on a map if you follow that first link.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Who is the new face of American homeownership?

Who is the new face of American homeownership?: "New homeowners in 2015 were noticeably older than those in 2001, when the median age of new owners was 34 (Figure 1). Some of this is due to the general aging of the U.S. population–renters and established owners were also older in 2015 than the same groups in 2001–but the age distribution has changed more dramatically for new owners. In particular, the share of new homeowners under age 30 declined from 29 percent in 2001 to about 15 percent in 2015. During the same time, the share of all households under age 30 declined slightly from 13 percent to just under 10 percent..In 2015, 7.5 percent of new homeowners and 3.3 percent of all households lived in newly built housing. By contrast, in 2001, 25 percent of new homeowners lived in newly built housing, as did 8.5 percent of all households..Despite much media attention to millennials’ supposed preference for high-density urban living, the data suggests that most new homeowners still purchase single-family houses. The dearth of new housing development during the Great Recession and recovery–and the scarcity of new single-family homes in particular–may constrain both first-time homeowners and established homeowners looking to trade up."

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Housing construction virtually stopped during the recession, when it started again there were more apartments, lending standards became tougher, the job market for young people hasn't been all that great, and many of the ones with higher earning potential are paying off student loans. Experts keep predicting the end of the suburban dream and the return to the city, but people keep wanting to buy single-family homes in the suburbs.



Tuesday, October 10, 2017

'Housing Is Everybody's Problem'

'Housing Is Everybody's Problem': "Concord Park was Morris Milgram’s initial venture as a professional homebuilder. His motivations were idealistic: Milgram wanted to prove that multiracial suburbs were not only practical but also superior to segregated developments. From its groundbreaking in 1954 and well into the 1960s, Concord Park’s fortunes were closely tracked by progressive activists, scholars, and journalists (most friendly, but not all). Milgram would devote the rest of his career to building, promoting, and managing integrated housing. Although he is largely forgotten today, he counted among his supporters Martin Luther King, Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt, as well as other humanitarian leaders of the era. By the time of his death, in 1997, he could rightly claim to have provided some 20,000 units of housing across the nation while adhering to staunch anti-discrimination — and actively pro-integration — policies."

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Ironically, a lot of what Milgram did in order to promote integration is illegal today because it was race-conscious.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Los Angeles Expects to Turn Away 96 Percent of Subsidized Housing Applicants – Mother Jones

Los Angeles Expects to Turn Away 96 Percent of Subsidized Housing Applicants – Mother Jones: "When Los Angeles opens applications to join its waitlist for subsidized housing vouchers in a couple of weeks, the city’s housing authority expects that it will receive more than 600,000 applications. According to the Los Angeles Times, the waitlist’s capacity is just 20,000, which means that 580,000 of those who apply will be told, more or less, ‘Sorry, better luck next time.’

The lucky 20,000 then stand to wait a up to a decade for a voucher to become available."

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I think we can safely call that a housing crisis, don't you? LA has what some say is the least affordable housing prices in the US. Some cities are higher in dollars, but not necessarily relative to income.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

“Instant neighborhoods” don’t make for great cities, but DC insists on them – Greater Greater Washington

“Instant neighborhoods” don’t make for great cities, but DC insists on them – Greater Greater Washington: "In certain corners of DC, flocks of construction cranes are busy assembling dozens of apartment towers from scratch – while other neighborhoods look much the same as they have for decades. This imbalance is quietly undermining the character and continuity of DC's urban fabric by eroding the physical, economic, and social diversity within neighborhoods. Yet DC's planning policies explicitly encourage this pattern when they single out a few areas to develop all at once, while exempting other areas from growth."

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This kind of planning is not conducive to having any sense of community. Jane Jacobs would be protesting.

Beverly Hills Homeowners Band Together Against Justin Bieber | Vanity Fair

Beverly Hills Homeowners Band Together Against Justin Bieber | Vanity Fair:

I guess his reputation has preceded him. The neighborhood is organizing to keep him from renting a home.

Arizona HOA managers accused of stealing nearly $1.3M from groups

Arizona HOA managers accused of stealing nearly $1.3M from groups: "Federal prosecutors are accusing the owners of Phoenix-based Eagle Property Management of taking almost $1.3 million from several Valley homeowners associations."

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Why does this happen so often? Perhaps because of the lack of regulation and oversight of the property management industry, and the fact that HOA/condo association directors and officers are often not willing or able keep an eagle eye on things.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Manhattan Condos Are Barely Yielding More Than Government Treasuries - Bloomberg

Manhattan Condos Are Barely Yielding More Than Government Treasuries - Bloomberg:

"Manhattan condo buyers who rent out their apartments are getting little more yield than they would with government debt. Newly purchased condos that were listed for lease in the second quarter brought their owners a median return of 2.5 percent, according to an analysis released Monday by property-listings website StreetEasy. It’s been stuck at that level since the end of last year, the lowest in data going back to 2010. The median yield on relatively risk-free 10-year Treasury notes was 2.25 percent in the second quarter. “This is the lowest point we’ve seen in history,” Grant Long, a senior economist at StreetEasy, said in an interview. “It’s a steady downward trend.”

Sunday, October 01, 2017

HOA fight over World War II tank in River Oaks | khou.com

HOA fight over World War II tank in River Oaks | khou.com

"Attorney Tony Buzbee bought a fully functional World War II tank overseas last year for $600,000. Now he's temporarily parked it outside his multi-million dollar home in River Oaks. "Took a year to get here but now it's on River Oaks Boulevard," said Buzbee. "This particular tank landed at Normandy. It liberated Paris and ultimately went all the way to Berlin. There's a lot of history here." But now the River Oaks Property Owners group isn't happy about it. "It's not violating any ordinance, but for some people it makes the homeowners association uncomfortable," said Buzbee. They sent Buzbee a letter saying the tank "impedes traffic", causes a "safety issue" and is causing "serious concerns for neighbors". "If you're offended just lighten up, my goodness it isn't hurting anyone," said Buzbee."

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You just knew it had to be an attorney, right?

Friday, September 29, 2017

Portland Condo Owners Toss Out Homeowners Association Board That Imposed High Fees - Willamette Week

Portland Condo Owners Toss Out Homeowners Association Board That Imposed High Fees - Willamette Week: "Condo owners in the Cedar Mill neighborhood have won a reprieve from the new fees that many feared would drive them from their homes.

On Sept. 21, at the annual meeting of the Westlake Village Condominium Homeowners Association, the group calling itself Save Westlake Village took over all five positions on the HOA board.

They intend to rescind the fees the previous board imposed to pay for a $6.4 million renovation project for the 200-unit complex."

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Of course, there is another side to this that doesn't appear in this particular story. What is going to happen to the property now that apparently the renovation project isn't going forward?

Deerfield condominium association treasurer charged with stealing $18K | masslive.com

Deerfield condominium association treasurer charged with stealing $18K | masslive.com:



Here we go again.

Awful Homeowners' Association Hassles Man's Street Legal Upside-Down Camaro

Awful Homeowners' Association Hassles Man's Street Legal Upside-Down Camaro: "We can’t say we’re big fans of homeowners’ associations around here, as they tend to be garbage busybodies who insert their nose into your project car. One even recently decided to hassle one of the most infamous builds in 24 Hours of Lemons history—the running, street-legal Upside-Down Camaro. "

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I can't believe that this car runs. Pure genius.



Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Attorneys discuss rights to pooping in public after "Mad Pooper" video release - KRDO

Attorneys discuss rights to pooping in public after "Mad Pooper" video release - KRDO

I've heard many people talk about their rights as neighbors and residents and homeowners. Satellite dishes, flags, fences, pets, parking, pools, religious symbols, Halloween decorations...I thought I'd heard it all. But no. Is there a right to poop on your neighbor's lawn? Ask this lawyer, because he says his client has that right. Coming to an HOA near you? I hope not.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tracking Arizona homeowners association foreclosures

Tracking Arizona homeowners association foreclosures

The Arizona Republic is seriously going after the HOA foreclosure situation. I've been commenting on the issue for just about forever, and so have a lot of other people. The problem is that CIDs typically have exactly one source of income, which is assessments.  The volunteer owner-directors typically don't have enough training and experience to do their jobs, so they tend to rely on property managers and lawyers. In most areas where there are many CIDs, here are some law firms that function basically as HOA/condo assessment collection agencies. Their bread and butter is an automated business of sending demand letters, slapping liens on people's homes, doing foreclosures (often nonjudicial), and slapping attorney fees on every action they take. It is all collectable, all secured by the lien, and that means that the owner can't extinguish the lien unless s/he pays the attorney fees. So you get situations such as owing $1000 in unpaid assessments and $12,000 in attorney fees. The final piece of the problem is that in virtually every state these lawyers and their foreclosure mills are not regulated in any meaningful way. So there are abuses.  Now, I would be the first to say that CIDs need to collect assessments, and they need to be able to foreclose at some point--for the assessments. That is a serious situation. They will go under if they can't collect, and before they go under the burden of paying for delinquent owners fall on the other owners, which can drive them into delinquency, too. So associations need to be able to collect their assessments in a timely manner. But what about all the extra charges and attorney fees? Here, there has to be some oversight and some proportionality, so that people don't lose their homes not because they can't pay their association, but because they can't pay the padded bill of the association's lawyer. And no, I don't begrudge these lawyers their living, because they have to pay the rent, too. But there are many documented examples of abuses, and state legislatures need to set some standards.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Homeowners file lawsuit over odor from portable toilet facility | KOMO

Homeowners file lawsuit over odor from portable toilet facility | KOMO: "PACIFIC, Wash. -- Some homeowners in Pacific are pursuing legal action to try to stop the stink that sometimes fills the air around their homes, they said. They claim Northwest Cascade, Inc., a nearby company that cleans and stores portable toilets, is to blame."

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They "claim"??  How could that be in dispute, considering that the company cleans and stores porta-potties?

HOA, Sun City Grand residents clash over painted driveway borders

HOA, Sun City Grand residents clash over painted driveway borders:

People have been painting their driveway borders for years, and now suddenly the world will come to an end unless they paint over it the same uniform shade of grayish beige. Because everybody knows that nobody wants to buy a house unless it has a grayish beige driveway.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Researchers Are Mapping the Racist Foundations of Minneapolis Housing Patterns – Next City

Researchers Are Mapping the Racist Foundations of Minneapolis Housing Patterns – Next City: "...a group of researchers working out of Augsburg University in Minneapolis is taking on a less visible legacy: thousands of racially restrictive covenants in house deeds buried in the city’s property records.

Their project is called Mapping Prejudice. Their goal is to find every single racially restrictive covenant — a now-illegal type of deed restriction that prevented the sale of a home to a black person or, in some cases, anyone other than a white person — and plot them on a map of Minneapolis. The early results show, not too surprisingly, that the neighborhoods where racial covenants were clustered in the early part of the 20th century are still some of the city’s whitest."

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The early history of homeowners' associations was mainly about enforcing race restrictive covenants. These covenants created patterns of racial segregation that are still with us today in many cities.



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California's housing costs are driving its citizens into poverty. Lawmakers need to act now - LA Times

California's housing costs are driving its citizens into poverty. Lawmakers need to act now - LA Times

"Annual data released this week again confirm that when housing costs and other living expenses are figured in, California has the nation’s highest poverty rate. One in five Californians lives in poverty. Why? Because the staggering cost of paying for a roof over one’s head has left people struggling to survive."

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And this opinion piece is based on this story

Homeowners association settles lawsuit against Loveland couple that built critical sign in front yard - Loveland Reporter-Herald

Homeowners association settles lawsuit against Loveland couple that built critical sign in front yard - Loveland Reporter-Herald

"A Loveland man removed a controversial sign from his front yard Thursday more than a month after he constructed the billboard to criticize his neighborhood's homeowners association.

But Rich Stephens, the resident, did so with a promise from the Alford Meadows Community Association that it would never again harass him over a wooden pallet painted to resemble a colonial American flag hanging from the side of his house on the corner of West 50th Street and Crabapple Drive."
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 First came the wooden colonial flag, then a giant sign warning people about the HOA. But now all is settled.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Arizona HOAs foreclosing on a record number of homeowners

Arizona HOAs foreclosing on a record number of homeowners: "Homeowners associations, the enforcers of neighborhood paint colors, holiday decorations and trash bins, are leading the latest surge in Phoenix-area foreclosures. HOAs are foreclosing on a record number of homeowners for as little as $1,200 in missed maintenance payments, according to an Arizona Republic investigation. And homeowners who thought only their mortgage lender could seize property are losing their houses at sheriff’s auctions, sometimes for just $100 more than they owe..Arizona allows an HOA to foreclose after a year of missed payments or a debt of $1200. But when HOAs add legal fees and interest to late payments, the debt can more than quadruple in a year."

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Yes, here we go again. For years after the 2007-08 crash in property values, HOAs and condo associations often decided not to foreclose because the units were underwater and there wouldn't be any equity left after the HOA foreclosure triggered the mortgagee (bank) to get into the act and take what was owed on the mortgage. Some states have a limited "super-priority lien" for some amount of overdue assessments, but the big payoffs, including hefty attorney fees, were not there because you can't get blood from a turnip. But now, housing values have come back in many markets, so HOAs are back in the foreclosure business.

Woodson: 'I'm not spending taxpayer money on private roads' | Riverhead News Review

Woodson: 'I'm not spending taxpayer money on private roads' | Riverhead News Review

And that is the answer that HOA residents should expect to hear for the next 20 years, as their private streets wear out and they realize to their horror that they don't have the money to repair them, and turn to the "gubmint" to bail them out. In this case, they turned to the courts:



"Last fall, the Oak Hills Association filed a lawsuit against the town, seeking to have a state Supreme Court judge require it to provide all highway services to the neighborhood, which has 85 homes and 11 roads. That lawsuit, which named both the Town Board and Mr. Woodson is defendants, is still pending and board members said settlement discussions have taken place."


The world’s largest car market just announced an imminent end to gas and diesel cars - Vox

The world’s largest car market just announced an imminent end to gas and diesel cars - Vox

China, India, and Europe are getting rid of gas and diesel vehicles much faster than most Americans realize. It will happen here, eventually, but the US is lagging behind the rest of the developed world in most important industrial and technological developments. Other nations are taking over the markets of the future and developing the technologies that will be at the heart of the economy in the near future. How about this sentence: "In most big markets outside the US, EVs are the hot thing"? Here's another: "In July, Volvo announced that all its models introduced in 2019 and after would be hybrid or electric." Yes, electric cars are "the hot thing" everywhere except here, where Americans are still salivating over V-8 pickup trucks and the national government is run by a party that denies the existence of global warming because they are on the take from the oil industry. And it isn't just that the switch to electric. At the same time, cars are going driverless, and the Chinese are trying to beat us to the market with this technology. The implications for the housing market of the transportation revolution that is happening everywhere but here are pretty dramatic.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Rich SF Homeowners Prepare For Legal Battle Against Asian Couple That Owns Their Street

Rich SF Homeowners Prepare For Legal Battle Against Asian Couple That Owns Their Street:

More from the Presidio Terrace conflict. Both sides have lawyered up and the Presidio Terrace HOA has hired former city attorneys. The owners aren't worried, though: "While the homeowners are trying their best to persuade supervisors into scraping the tax auction, the street’s new owners Michael Cheng and Tina Lam aren’t too worried. Cheng revealed that the supervisors haven’t mentioned anything about revoking the tax sale so he’s confident that they’re “on sound legal footing.”

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Commons — Nightingale Housing

The Commons — Nightingale Housing:

Last week I spoke at a conference in Australia where the developers of this project, The Commons, told us about it. Amazing in many ways.  No car parking, for example. Why waste money building an underground garage when in five years people will not need parking, because they will get around in driverless electric cars that are shared and park themselves elsewhere after they drop you off at home or work?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Transitioning Building Design to a Future of Compact, Driverless Cars - Urban Land Magazine

Transitioning Building Design to a Future of Compact, Driverless Cars - Urban Land Magazine:

"As soon as 2030, the trend toward fewer and smaller cars will mean a reduced need for wide roads and parking, reshaping cities and how people interact. At least that is how Ross Conway, design director and principal at Gensler, an architecture firm, conceives the future. Conway was one of several speakers at a recent parking symposium in Arlington, Texas, sponsored by several groups, including ULI North Texas."

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The only thing I disagree with here is, "as soon as 2030." This is happening right now. There are already condominium units being sold in buildings that are designed without parking lots because developers know that in five years--not 13--most of the residents won't own cars, and those that do will own driverless electric cars that drop them off at home and then drive off to park themselves in a big lot away from from prime real estate. That is, they will park themselves when they aren't off Ubering around making money for the owner.

Charging interest on interest on past-due HOA accounts is a no-no - LA Times

Charging interest on interest on past-due HOA accounts is a no-no - LA Times:

The latest from Donie Vanitzian.



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Monday, August 07, 2017

Couple buys private Presidio Terrace road in San Francisco for $90,000 in auction | The Sacramento Bee

Couple buys private Presidio Terrace road in San Francisco for $90,000 in auction | The Sacramento Bee

"It turns out the homeowners association for Presidio Terrace failed to pay a $14-a-year property tax, something that owners of all 181 private streets in San Francisco must do. So the city’s tax office put the property up for sale at the cost of $994 in an online auction to regain unpaid back taxes, penalties and interest. The couple eventually won the street with a $90,100 bid, outlasting several other bidders. Scott Emblidge, the attorney for the Presidio Homeowners Association, said in a letter to the city that the owners failed to pay because the tax bill was being sent to the address of an accountant who hadn’t worked for the homeowners association since the 1980s. Now the couple, who purchased the road in April 2015, are aiming to cash in. “We could charge a reasonable rent on it,” Cheng said, adding he and his wife could stand to profit from the 120 parking spaces on the street.
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What a delightful story. This couple is going to charge rich people to park on their own street. Unless they would prefer that the couple rent spaces on the street to the peasantry.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Monday, July 17, 2017

Public Transit, Privatization and the Canada Infrastructure Bank | Global Research - Centre for Research on Globalization

Public Transit, Privatization and the Canada Infrastructure Bank | Global Research - Centre for Research on Globalization:

From Canada:

"The Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) will create a pipeline of privatization for our public transit systems. Corporations will be able to extract long-term profit from public transit fares and public subsidies.  Our governments subsidize public transit because it’s critical infrastructure for our communities: to get us from place to place, to reduce traffic congestion, and to green our environment. When we allow corporations to plan, finance, operate, maintain and own public transit, we funnel ridership fares and government funding into corporate coffers. The CIB will give unprecedented control and decision-making power over our public transit infrastructure to private sector investors. This means the public interest will take a back seat in transit planning and development. Many of our public transit systems in recent years have been built using public-private partnerships (P3s). The CIB will open the door to even further privatization, allowing profit to drive public transit planning and decision-making."

Privatization Is Changing America's Relationship With Its Physical Stuff - The Atlantic

Privatization Is Changing America's Relationship With Its Physical Stuff - The Atlantic:



"Whether it’s P3s, or the outright privatization of public assets, as Trump suggests doing with the air-traffic control system, cautionary tales abound. Many experts cite the case of Chicago, which sold off its parking meters to a consortium headed by Morgan Stanley and including the government of Dubai. The consortium paid the city $1.1 billion. The Chicago Sun-Times estimated that the consortium will earn back its investment from meter revenue three years from now, but the deal runs for another 60 years. So Morgan Stanley, Dubai, and the other partners will pocket millions every year ($156 million in 2015) from Chicago parkers. Meanwhile, the city has to pay the consortium every time it takes a meter out of service—during a street fair, for example. As The New York Times explored last December, cities can be blindsided by such deals, especially if a private owner raises the price, for example, of using its water system in order to provide a profit to investors."

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There are many situations in which municipalities have made terrible privatization deals brokered by investment bankers and funded by some shadowy sovereign wealth fund or private equity combine. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

America's infrastructure debt is so bad that towns are unpaving roads they can't afford to fix / Boing Boing

America's infrastructure debt is so bad that towns are unpaving roads they can't afford to fix / Boing Boing



Here is what 35 years of ignoring the need to maintain public infrastructure have brought us:



"The chickens are coming home to roost in rural America, where paved roads have been neglected so long that they are effectively beyond repair, prompting municipalities to tear them up and replace them with car-smashing gravel roads whose dust pose a health hazard to residents and livestock."  

Monday, July 03, 2017

Trump takes over his condo board.

Trump Foot Soldier Sidelined Under Glare of Russia Inquiry - The New York Times

"Just over a decade ago, Donald J. Trump was locked in conflict with a group of apartment owners who had taken control of the condominium board at his new glass tower across from the United Nations. Faced with accusations of financial impropriety and an affront to his authority, Mr. Trump turned to Michael D. Cohen, a former personal injury lawyer who helped run a taxi fleet. Mr. Cohen did not seem to have extensive expertise in the arcana of New York City condo rules. But he had something Mr. Trump seemed to value more: devotion to the Trump brand. He had already purchased a number of Trump properties and had persuaded his parents, in-laws and a business partner to buy apartments in Mr. Trump’s flashy new development, Trump World Tower. Plus, he had read Mr. Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal.” Twice. With Mr. Cohen’s help, Mr. Trump regained control of the board, orchestrating a coup that culminated in a standoff between his security detail and private guards hired by the disgruntled owners, according to people who were there. Details of the dispute’s resolution are secret because of a confidentiality agreement, but Mr. Cohen said that his task was “masterfully accomplished.”

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I'll just leave this right here for those who (a) think condos are awful and the people who develop and run them are monsters, and (b) nonetheless voted for a real estate developer who builds condos and has a long record of leaving a trail of misery and destruction in his wake.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Law firm ordered to pay $3.1M to Las Vegas condo association – Las Vegas Review-Journal

Law firm ordered to pay $3.1M to Las Vegas condo association – Las Vegas Review-Journal

"One of Nevada’s leading law firms not only enabled a criminal conspiracy but also participated in it, according to District Judge Mark Denton. Kummer Kaempfer Bonner Renshaw and Ferrario was so negligent it enabled contractor Leon Benzer to cheat a homeowners association out of $8 million. On Tuesday, Denton ordered the law firm now known as Kaempfer Crowell to pay $3.1 million to the Vistana Condominium Owners Association. The judgment is nearly $2.4 million; the rest is interest.

“The judgment could exceed $4 million after costs and attorneys’ fees are added,” said Vistana attorney Richard Haskin, although that’s up to the judge. Denton’s findings of negligence and breach of duty against Kummer Kaempfer were plentiful and brutal...

■ A young attorney named Brian Jones wasn’t supervised and allowed ballot stuffing in a HOA election.

■ The FBI told the law firm it was investigating Jones in connection with election irregularities, but no one at the firm informed Vistana.

■ The law firm represented both sides in suspicious HOA elections, a clear conflict of interest."

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This is, of course, another stage in the Leon Benzer, et al., HOA fraud ring scandal, the biggest white-collar crime case in the history of Las Vegas. Dozens of people incarcerated, many of them prominent individuals, including the former chair of the Nevada Republican Party. Several suicides. And what is at the bottom of it? The fact that many HOAs and condo associations are vulnerable to being manipulated or even taken over by unscrupulous professionals, officers, and board members, and used like ATMs.

On this day: Voucher privatization in Russia was officially completed | Russia Beyond The Headlines

On this day: Voucher privatization in Russia was officially completed | Russia Beyond The Headlines

"The vouchers, each corresponding to a share of the national wealth, were distributed equally among the population, including minors. Almost 98 percent of Russians participated in the program, but most people were not well informed or had the proper finances. So, the governmental inner circles managed to grab most of the best assets. From 1992 to 1994, ownership of 15,000 firms was transferred from state control via the voucher program. This period is described as “the most cataclysmic peacetime economic collapse of an industrial country in history.” 

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Voucher privatization destroyed the Russian industrial economy and created the class of criminal billionaires who are now called the "oligarchs." Although almost the entire population was allowed to participate, the future oligarchs quickly found ways to buy up the vouchers and take over most of the nation's major businesses. Russia's economy has never recovered and never will. The nation went from being one of the world's major industrial countries to a third-world extraction economy that does almost nothing except selling oil and gas.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

House and Senate Set to Battle Over ATC Privatization - AVweb flash Article

House and Senate Set to Battle Over ATC Privatization - AVweb flash Article: "The House bill to reauthorize the FAA for the 2018 fiscal year—starting October 1—includes ATC privatization as most general aviation groups had feared. AOPA, EAA, GAMA, NATA, Helicopter Association International, and NBAA released a joint statement opposing the bill: “After a thorough and detailed review of Chairman Bill Shuster’s (R-PA) proposal to remove our nation’s air traffic control operations from the Federal Aviation Administration, we have concluded that these reforms, while well intentioned, will produce uncertainty and unintended consequences without achieving the desired outcomes.” Privatized ATC service would be funded by user fees under the proposal, which is the primary appeal for some supporters. Much of the FAA’s budget is currently supported by fuel taxes, which are mostly paid by operators of large jets. Replacing a fuel tax with a cost per operation—such as a fixed fee per instrument approach—would represent a tremendous tax cut for the airlines and tax increase for operators of smaller aircraft.

The Senate meanwhile seems unlikely to include ATC privatization in its companion bill. "



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Police: Man opens fire on HOA president - KTNV.com Las Vegas

Police: Man opens fire on HOA president - KTNV.com Las Vegas:



'via Blog this'

Back off Blackstone! Standing in Solidarity Against Privatization Wherever It Threatens | Food & Water Watch

Back off Blackstone! Standing in Solidarity Against Privatization Wherever It Threatens | Food & Water Watch: "The evidence is clear: Privately run water systems charge households 64 percent more than public systems charge. A typical household using 5,000 gallons a month pays an extra $153 a year if its water services are privatized. Additionally, once a publicly run infrastructure is privatized the decision is difficult to reverse. We have seen time and time again how privatization works to take advantage of the consumers. Food & Water Watch will support those who stand up to these corporate profiteers."



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Monday, June 12, 2017

Submitted for your consideration


Here's a Rod Serling Twilight Zone, "submitted for your consideration" interlude. I've been reading a book about Russian politics. The author says that understanding Russian politics isn't hard, as long as you drop the assumption that there are some things, just unthinkable things, that the government would never do. I don't know about Russia, but I do know about prosecutors and Trump and American politics. And I think that it is wrong to assume that Trump wouldn't dare to fire independent counsel Robert Mueller and pardon everybody who committed crimes on his behalf, because that would be unthinkable, authoritarian, tin-pot dictator, banana republic behavior. He would. And it is equally wrong to think that the Republicans in both houses of Congress wouldn't defend him for doing it. Because they would. And it is also wrong to think that the corporate media would drop their vapid, nonsensical, "both sides are equally extreme" coverage if/when this happens, because they would normalize it just like they normalized Trump's firing of the FBI director.
Now, maybe Trump won't set this whole chain in motion by firing Mueller. I hope he doesn't. But as the Magic 8 Ball says, "Signs point to yes." Because Mueller has quickly put together a Prosecution Death Star that is going to take about a year to get charged up, and when Mueller pushes the "fire" button, there will be more pieces of Trump floating in space than there were of Alderan, and none will be bigger than a grain of sand. By now, Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort, and maybe others, may have worked out deals with Mueller. Trump knows this, and it is obvious that he has absolutely no respect for the law, which for him is just another hostile power that he has to dominate. He may figure that he would rather terminate the prosecution and weather the firestorm than endure what will happen if he doesn't.
Because remember: just because we don't know all the facts about what he did, it doesn't mean that he doesn't know all the facts about what he did.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Colorado Supreme Court ruling requires developer’s consent on HOA rule changes

Colorado Supreme Court ruling requires developer’s consent on HOA rule changes: "At issue is a Monday ruling by the state Supreme Court that upheld a developer’s right to require mandatory arbitration for any defects claims.

The 27-page ruling for Vallagio V. Metro. Homes stipulates that a developer may include provisions in a Common Interest Communities (CIC) declaration that gives it the right to refuse any amendments voted on by homeowners."

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I haven't read the opinion yet, but as explained here, apparently the original dec (drafted by the developer, of course) says all defect claims have to go to binding arbitration, and also provides that any changes in the dec have to be approved by the developer. The HOA took a vote to change the arbitration provision, so they could sue the developer instead of going to arbitration. Colorado law says that owners can amend their declarations, and that super-majority requirements can't exceed 67%.  That seems to give owners protection against anti-amendment provisions in their developer-drafted original declarations.



But no-- the Colorado Supreme Court ruled against the owners:  "Statute allows CICs to gather a majority vote to change declarations laid down by developers. The level of majority required varies between declarations but cannot exceed 67 percent. The CIC in Vallagio V. Metro. Homes argued that requiring consent from developers for changes exceeded the maximum limit and should be prohibited. But the 5-2 ruling found the inclusion of a consent requirement does not violate the statute concerning declaration changes."  
And here is some reaction to the ruling, also from the same linked story:
"Build Our Homes Right, a homeowners advocacy group, had a different opinion of the ruling and its implications. Jonathan Harris, CEO of Build Our Homes Right, said in a statement that the ruling diverges from what should be a priority for courts: protecting citizens’ legal rights, such as the right to trial. “The court just decided that deep pocketed developers have the right to steamroll over homeowners in order to shirk their responsibility for producing shoddy homes,” Harris said. He added that the implications of the ruling stretch beyond defects. “The court has decided that powerful developers can control homeowners associations until the end of time, not only in construction defect claims, but on everything from their right to a jury trial in any kind of dispute, to issues relating to assessments and how homeowners use their own homes,” he said."