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:



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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."

An HOA-like organization helps determine how Colorado Mills is rebuilt | 9news.com

An HOA-like organization helps determine how Colorado Mills is rebuilt | 9news.com:



What could possibly go wrong? :-)

Kansas abandons massive tax cuts that provided model for Trump's plan | US news | The Guardian

Kansas abandons massive tax cuts that provided model for Trump's plan | US news | The Guardian:

"Kansas has rejected the years-long tax-cutting experiment that brought its governor, Sam Brownback, to international attention and provided a model for the Trump administration’s troubled tax plans.

In a warning shot to the Trump administration, even Brownback’s fellow Republicans voted to override his veto of a bill to reverse many of the tax cuts he championed as a way to spur entrepreneurs and the economy, but which have left the state with a $1bn hole in its budget."


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Brownback got his advice from Arthur Laffer, who inflicted this nonsense on the nation when the people around Reagan bought "supply side economics" and the loony notion that if government cuts tax rates, they can collect more tax revenue. Reagan gave us gigantic budget deficts, then Bush did the same, Brownback cratered his state, and now of course Trump and his cronies invoking this voodoo to justify giving huge tax breaks to their super-rich buddies.



'via Blog this'

Trump Wants to Gut the Agency Behind the Shale Boom - Bloomberg

Trump Wants to Gut the Agency Behind the Shale Boom - Bloomberg:



Even the business press is aghast at Trump's mindless flailing around.

The Opening Bell 6/7/17: Should FAA Focus on Privatization, or Modernization? | WGN Radio - 720 AM

The Opening Bell 6/7/17: Should FAA Focus on Privatization, or Modernization? | WGN Radio - 720 AM

This is an interview with me this morning about the proposal to privatize the Federal Aviation Administration's air traffic control functions. Trump had a silly signing ceremony with no legislation or executive order--not even a real proposal. He just "signed" some "principles" that basically amount to endorsing unspecified private-public partnerships as the way to build infrastructure. And he endorsed last year's HR 4441 that failed miserably. It was the four major airlines' plan to privatize air traffic control and give them control over it--30,000 employees, tens of billions of dollars of infrastructure, tens of billions more in money to update airports, and control over air traffic control. The bill went nowhere, except in the committee of Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA). By an amazing coincidence, Shuster was spotted having a good time in Miami with two airline lobbyists, one of whom was his girlfriend. The four major airlines spent $16 million lobbying.  Here's what the lobby for regional, smaller airlines thinks.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Condominium property act revamp could give owners needed support - Loop North News

Condominium property act revamp could give owners needed support - Loop North News: "Condominium owners and families residing in homeowner associations who are battling disputes and struggling for financial clarity received a major shot of support from the Illinois Legislature with the recent passage of two important bills."



'via Blog this'

Friday, April 28, 2017

Rachel Weber receives Best Book Award from the Urban Affairs Association | Great Cities Institute

Rachel Weber receives Best Book Award from the Urban Affairs Association | Great Cities Institute: "At its 47th annual meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 19-22, 2017, the Urban Affairs Association awarded Rachel Weber, Great Cities Institute Fellow and Professor of Urban Planning and Policy at UIC, the “Best Book” in the field of urban affairs/urban studies.  According to the association, “The purpose of the award is to encourage high-quality research on urban issues and reward cogent writing on urban affairs.”  Dr. Weber received the award for her book, From Boom to Bubble:  How Finance Built the New Chicago (University of Chicago Press), which “investigates the causes and effects of the dizzying building booms that occur when real estate development financial markets, and city planning all operate in overdrove to rapidly erect new structure and demolish older ones.”  Congratulations, Rachel!"

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Congratulations to my colleague, Professor Rachel Weber!



Chalet Village HOA can collect even if wildfire consumed home; fees assessed on land

Chalet Village HOA can collect even if wildfire consumed home; fees assessed on land

"Rebuilding Chalet Village’s facilities will take every dime from property owners’ annual assessment, according to the homeowners association board members. The HOA bills drew complaints from a few people who lost cabins to the November wildfire, who asked why they should pay for unusable properties and destroyed facilities...The Chalet Village Owners Club was already on a tight budget after a $250,000 pool repair the previous year — for which it’s still fighting an insurer in court — and the wildfire did at least $200,000 more damage, which will exceed the limits of the HOA’s insurance, said board treasurer Stan Johnson. The fire also destroyed 533 cabins, including all but 43 houses in North Chalet Village. About 700 remain in South Chalet Village."

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Another example of how things work. The association had two big financial hits and nobody is going to pay for it except...the owners.  

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Henderson families fighting proposed HOA rule changes - KTNV.com Las Vegas

Henderson families fighting proposed HOA rule changes - KTNV.com Las Vegas: "Henderson neighbors say they are fighting back against a pair of proposed rules being considered by their HOA targeting certain dogs and kids playing in the street.

The HOA president says they are looking at the rules after getting several complaints from resident on both issues."

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They are considering breed restrictions. And they are considering prohibiting kids from playing on their private streets, which is one of those "let's create bad publicity for ourselves!" ideas that some HOAs are attracted to.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Illinois General Assembly - Bill Status for HB3755 -- Attorney Fees

Illinois General Assembly - Bill Status for HB3755: "CONDOMINIUM ACT-ATTORNEY FEES"



In Illinois, when an association sues an owner and wins, the owner pays the association's attorney fees. But when the owner wins, the association generally does not have to pay the owner's fees. This bill would make the fee-shifting mutual, so that the victorious owner would have his or her attorney fees paid by the association. This is inspired by what happened to Lisa Carlson in the legal disputes that led to the case of Spanish Court Two Condominium Association v. Carlson.  A similar bill was introduced in the Illinois state legislature last year and didn't make it out of committee. Attorney Norman Lerum, who represented Carlson in the case, is heavily involved in designing the legislation, which is being pushed by Rep. Scott Drury (D-Highwood).

Condominiums in crisis: Financial troubles put many communities at risk - The Washington Post

Condominiums in crisis: Financial troubles put many communities at risk - The Washington Post: "Even as posh condos rise in trendy neighborhoods around the nation’s capital, many older complexes are mired in a recession that never ended. A cycle of aging infrastructure, limited resources and foreclosure is putting these communities in a deep financial hole, threatening what traditionally has been an affordable path to homeownership for the working class.

Monthly fees, the financial lifeblood of condo developments, have risen sharply as boards try to generate cash for long-deferred maintenance and to cover basic expenses. As a result, more owners can’t make their payments, and fewer prospective owners can afford to buy in.

At the same time, tightened lending rules, and a reluctance among banks to foreclose on units that will be hard to resell, have boosted the number of long-vacant condos in many complexes, further depleting the flow of fees that pay for utilities, trash collection, upkeep and repairs.

“These communities are suffering desperately,” said Vicki Vergagni, community manager at Glen Waye Gardens in Silver Spring. “This is potentially a great type of housing that is affordable. But public policy has not foreseen the issues it’s created.”"


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This is from late last year, but it is worth reading.

Why Colorado lawmakers hope this is the year to solve the affordable condo crisis | The Colorado Independent

Why Colorado lawmakers hope this is the year to solve the affordable condo crisis | The Colorado Independent: "This much perhaps everyone can agree on: Colorado is in an affordable housing crisis, whether you live on the Front Range, Western Slope or the Eastern Plains. Affordable housing is almost a myth, with rents in Denver for a one-bedroom apartment averaging $1,550 per month.
But is a package of legislation tackling “construction defects reform,” which would change the process by which homeowners with defective condos sue developers, the answer to Colorado’s affordable housing crisis?
Some of those who build condos say yes: If you pass it, giving us more protections against lawsuits, we will return to building affordable for-sale condos and townhomes. But some of those who have lived in defective owner-occupied multi-housing units just don’t buy that."


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Nice tradeoff--for builders. Protect them against lawsuits for shoddy construction, and they will build more lower-end condos. And then what? The people who buy them can't sue after the roof starts leaking, so they have to pay for it with a special assessment that none of them can afford. It is the buyers of low-end condos who are the least able to pay for things like this.

More than 200 condo buyers may lose homes after development fails - Toronto - CBC News

More than 200 condo buyers may lose homes after development fails - Toronto - CBC News: "About 200 people who bought condo units in an Etobicoke high-rise project may lose their homes after the development was placed into court-ordered receivership due to massive financial problems.

The project, still only about 15 per cent complete six years after it was first marketed to potential buyers, will now be sold off by the receiver in a bidding process.

The buyers who paid for the pre-sold condos — 208 of the project's 242 units — will get their combined $6.3 million in deposits back. But the condos they bought and waited years to move into will likely be sold off at much higher current market values by whomever steps in to complete the project. "


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As we all know, this has happened many times in the US. As is so often the case with condominiums, fluctuations in property values end up hurting the little people who just want a place to live, and benefiting the speculators who can afford to get in and out of the market.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Highlands Ranch resident Stan Hrincevich is determined to push back on HOA transfer fees.

Highlands Ranch resident Stan Hrincevich is determined to push back on HOA transfer fees.: "You are about to sell your house in a local planned community. All the paperwork is ready. You notice a single line item charging you $350, labeled as a transfer fee for “unreimbursed expenses” incurred — usually by your homeowners association’s property management company — during the transfer of the home to a new owner. You don’t get a receipt and you cannot finalize sale of your home if you don’t pay it.

A few hundred dollars in a transaction typically dealing with hundreds of thousands of dollars might not seem like a big deal. But for Highlands Ranch resident Stan Hrincevich the scenario is an injustice that bilks Colorado homeowners out of millions of dollars."


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Thanks to Robert in Colorado for this link. I've posted on this issue before and a number of people have identified transfer fees as a suspect practice that shovels money to property managers who (it is argued) don't do much to earn the fee. Let the comments begin!

YOU ASK. WE INVESTIGATE. Family debating HOA over Christmas wreath fine - Story

YOU ASK. WE INVESTIGATE. Family debating HOA over Christmas wreath fine - Story: "LAS VEGAS (KTNV) - A man living in the Arroyo Canyon subdivision near the 215 Beltway and Hualapai Way says his homeowners association is threatening to fine him $100 over a decorative wreath.

Milan Thakkar says his wife picked out the wreaths to decorate their front door and make it less plain. They say it's not a Christmas wreath, but their HOA sent a letter claiming they violated a rule that holiday decorations have to be taken down within 30 days of the holiday.

"It's petty. ... I can take it down in 2 seconds. ... It's the principle of it," he says."


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So there is a "principle" involved with displaying Christmas decorations in Las Vegas in April.

Fight about truck with HOA president gets man arrested

Fight about truck with HOA president gets man arrested: "JUPITER
A man upset that a Jupiter homeowners’ association had towed his truck was arrested last week after entering the group president’s home and threatening to retaliate, town police said."

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The association says that the truck was "towed from a grass area at the complex where it had been illegally parked for two days. Multiple attempts were made to contact its owner, the president said."

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Homeowners In Limbo After Homebuilder Bankruptcy « CBS Dallas / Fort Worth

Homeowners In Limbo After Homebuilder Bankruptcy « CBS Dallas / Fort Worth: "A Dallas home builder’s bankruptcy has left homeowners on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid labor costs."

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Yes, because going BK is a business strategy that real estate developers and builders use with regularity. Exhibit A being the current occupant of the White House.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Paris

I have been in Paris and Brussels for the last week or so, which is why I haven't been posting. You'd be surprised at how many things there are to do in Paris besides blogging!  But here's one observation you may find interesting. 80% of the owner-occupied housing in Paris is run by property owners' associations. To wit:

Règlement de copropriété
Co-ownership building régulations, laying out the rights and obligations of co-owners in the building, the method for calculating building fees, and the allowed use of the common areas and the individual apartments. 

HOA defrauded of millions accuses law firm of facilitating scheme – Las Vegas Review-Journal

HOA defrauded of millions accuses law firm of facilitating scheme – Las Vegas Review-Journal: " The homeowners association is trying to convince a judge that the fraud ringleaders could not have embezzled millions without the gross malpractice committed by a law firm that was hired in 2006 to protect the integrity of the Vistana HOA board elections.
 
The firm, Kummer Kaempfer Bonner Renshaw and Ferrario, did the opposite and concealed illegal behavior from its client, attorney Richard Haskin, who is representing the Vistana HOA, told a Clark County judge Tuesday.
Judge Mark Denton heard opening statements Tuesday in the civil case the Vistana HOA filed against the firm, which since has changed its name to Kaempfer Crowe. Only one of the firm’s lawyers, a first-year associate, ever faced criminal charges."


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The saga of the massive Las Vegas HOA fraud ring continues.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Abbott wants "broad-based law" that preempts local regulations | The Texas Tribune

Abbott wants "broad-based law" that preempts local regulations | The Texas Tribune: "CORPUS CHRISTI — As local control battles rage at the Texas Capitol, Gov. Greg Abbott is voicing support for a much more sweeping approach to the issues that have captured headlines.

"As opposed to the state having to take multiple rifle-shot approaches at overriding local regulations, I think a broad-based law by the state of Texas that says across the board, the state is going to preempt local regulations, is a superior approach," Abbott said Tuesday during a Q-and-A session hosted by the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, an Austin-based think tank. 

Such an approach, Abbott added, "makes it more simple, more elegant, but more importantly, provides greater advance notice to businesses and to individuals that you’re going to have the certainty to run your lives." 

Abbott made the remarks in response to a moderator's question about legislation this session that would "prohibit any local ordinance from exceeding the standard set by the state.""


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Because conservative Republicans believe in devolving power to the local level...right up until Democrats control city governments,  and then suddenly Republicans become big believers in having the state governments controlled by Republicans make all the decisions.

Bozeman to study shifting HOA-managed parks to city maintenance district | City | bozemandailychronicle.com

Bozeman to study shifting HOA-managed parks to city maintenance district | City | bozemandailychronicle.com: "In the past, Mayor Carson Taylor has said a parks district could equalize a system where HOA members pay both HOA fees for parks and the city taxes that fund the parks department. It could also help the city pay for maintenance in the new TOP-bond parks, given that the measure didn’t include any funding for that.

According to a study by the Trust for Public Land, Billings and Missoula have already adopted parks maintenance districts. Missoula’s, the study says, levies a property tax assessment costing a typical homeowner roughly $20 a year."

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So Mayor Taylor is looking to relieve HOA residents of double taxation for parks. I assume the tradeoff is that everybody gets to use the HOA formerly-private parks?

Attack of the Killer HOA Fees - Trulia's Blog

Attack of the Killer HOA Fees - Trulia's Blog:

Here is a piece from Trulia (discussed in the post below) that finds that, "Between 2005 and 2015  HOA fees rose 32.4% compared to just 15.1% for the median U.S. home."

D.C. area HOA dues jumped nearly 50 percent between 2005 and 2015 - Curbed DC

D.C. area HOA dues jumped nearly 50 percent between 2005 and 2015 - Curbed DC: "Over the past decade, homeowner association (HOA) dues have skyrocketed across the nation and especially in the D.C. area.

UrbanTurf reported that dues rose 32.4 percent between 2005 and 2015 across the nation. This resulted in the median monthly dues changing from $250 to $331.

In the same amount of time, the median monthly HOA dues in the D.C. area rose from $259 to $387, a 49.4 percent increase."



Here is the Urban Turn piece.

Are condo & HOA bank deposits fully insured by Uncle Sam? - Loop North News

Are condo & HOA bank deposits fully insured by Uncle Sam? - Loop North News:

The answer is more complicated than you might think. Are the association's funds in an account in its own name? Or are they commingled in one big account in the name of the management company, that is way over the dollar limit on federal depository insurance? If so, “If the management company is complying with the FDIC’s rules for pass-through deposit insurance coverage, then each HOA the company is holding funds for in the commingled account would have up to $250,000 of deposit insurance coverage at that bank,” explained the FDIC memorandum.



But what if they are not complying with those rules for pass-through deposit insurance coverage?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Census data show HOAs present few economic benefits to taxpayers, homeowners, local governments – Independent American Communities

Census data show HOAs present few economic benefits to taxpayers, homeowners, local governments – Independent American Communities:

This is an interesting analysis of census data by Deborah Goonan. You can access the original data here.  She tries to get to the truth of several claims by the industry:

"The HOA industry is fond of bragging about the ever-increasing number of association-governed communities and housing units in the U.S., and makes grandiose claims that privatization of services in common interest, association-governed communities provides economic relief to both homeowners and local governments, keeping taxes low and home ownership more affordable."

Her goal is to see if these claims are supported by census data. Her answer is, "no." See what you think. 

But there are other things in the data that are beyond dispute, some corroborated by other data. For example, the overwhelming majority of new housing in this country is in some sort of community association. The National Association of Home Builders did their own survey, and they compare the census findings with their survey as follows:

"When analyzed by intended use, 72 percent of new homes “built for sale or sold” in 2015 were in a community association, up from 63 percent in 2010. Among “contractor-built” homes (built on owner’s lot with owner hiring a builder or a general contractor), 23 percent were within a community or homeowner’s association (up from 21 percent in 2010), and only 12 percent of “owner-built” homes (owner acts as the general contractor) were within a community association, essentially unchanged from the 13 percent reported in 2010. Another source of information on this topic is NAHB’s recent survey on the Typical American Subdivisions. One of the questions asks whether there is a HOA, condo, or other type of community association for the development. Results show that 80 percent of the subdivisions have one of these association types."

Note that community associations are 72% to 80% of new housing built by developers, but only 12 percent of owner-built homes.  So the notion of people voluntarily choosing association living, one of the common myths perpetuated by the industry, is clearly disproved. CIDs are a solution to supply-side problems, not the result of consumer demand. Developers and local governments have taken the choice out of the housing market. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

HOA: S. Meck students skipping class, damaging property | WCNC.com

HOA: S. Meck students skipping class, damaging property | WCNC.com: "CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Residents who live near South Mecklenburg High School say they’re fed up with the recent uptick of students who have been skipping school and roaming their neighborhoods.

“It is a little shorter to come through here than to come on the sidewalk, and so they come through,” says Jill Detweiler, who lives in a neighborhood that backs up to the school.

But some say the students aren’t just roaming, they’re causing property damage. Hamlin Park’s HOA called police March 7 after they say two students bent their perimeter fence causing $150 in damage.

The president of the association later distributed notices to every resident.

“They’re just asking us to be aware of anybody coming through, if anybody’s damaging the fences. Anybody coming through that doesn’t belong here,” says Detweiler."


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Wow. A regular crime wave.




Trump Budget: Air Traffic Control Privatization Proposed | Fortune.com

Trump Budget: Air Traffic Control Privatization Proposed | Fortune.com:



What could possibly go wrong?

The super-rich in London: they live amongst us, but you won’t run into them (if they can help it) | British Politics and Policy at LSE

The super-rich in London: they live amongst us, but you won’t run into them (if they can help it) | British Politics and Policy at LSE

"Of course this is now a world of pronounced inequality and one in which the public realm and social investment are increasingly at stake in a political vision of the world in which trickle-down economics and naked personal ambition are feted by politicians and think-tanks. The result of these inequalities and social conditions is the production of urban anxieties that translate into bunker style homes as well as the opulent display of defensive measures like remotely accessed gated developments, as affluent residents of the street in Lanchester’s novel Capital learn ‘we want what you’ve got’."

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The same is true in the US.

Monday, March 13, 2017

State lawmakers from Miami-Dade submit condo reform law | Miami Herald

State lawmakers from Miami-Dade submit condo reform law | Miami Herald: "After decades of struggling against a condo regulatory system that experts say perpetuates impunity and makes it easy to commit fraud, thousands of condominium owners in Florida may finally see substantial changes in state laws.

Earlier this month, state senators and representatives from Miami-Dade filed a bill that includes 21 reforms to Chapter 718 of the Florida statutes. The reforms seek to correct gaps in the laws and establish criminal penalties for some irregularities in the administration of condos.

The plan classifies falsification of documents, an offense that now carries no legal consequences, as a third degree felony and sets prison terms. It also criminalizes electoral fraud, such as the falsification of signatures on ballots for condo boards of directors, and refusing access to administrative records with the intent to cover up crimes.

The proposal came one year after el Nuevo Herald and Univision 23 published a series of investigative stories on condo abuses in South Florida
, like electoral fraud, falsification of signatures, conflicts of interest, embezzlement and cases of fraudulent bidding.

The series also exposed the lack of enforcement by authorities, from local police departments who refused to investigate allegations of fraud, to widespread negligence at the state agency in charge of enforcing condo laws and regulations and investigating complaints."




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HOAs and condo association private governments are vulnerable to embezzlement and fraud, as well as election fraud and manipulation, because in many situations there is virtually no oversight of their actions. Often only a handful of owners are even paying attention to what the association is doing, there is no public disclosure of finances, and state and local governments rarely take an interest in financial oversight of associations. Obviously there should be criminal penalties for fraud and embezzlement, and local prosecutors should take these cases seriously instead of telling people to to away and file a civil suit. But the threat of criminal prosecution alone won't solve the problems. There need to be other incentives, such as some form of mandatory public disclosure of association finances--not just to people who have already signed a contract to buy, and more free or low-cost education programs for all owners.



Also, we need to keep in mind that the rule of law only works in any society if  99% of the time arrest and prosecution are unnecessary.  Informal norms have to govern people's behavior so that they behave legally without having any contact with enforcement authorities. Most of the time that is true of association directors and officers, but if we want to improve this situation then a lot more sunlight on association finances is necessary.

Where Segregation Has Worsened the Housing Divide - CityLab

Where Segregation Has Worsened the Housing Divide - CityLab:



Over the last two decades, America has become increasingly polarized by both class and geography. As the middle class and its neighborhoods have declined, our nation has increasingly divided into rich and poor, and neighborhoods of concentrated affluence have become surrounded by larger spans of concentrated disadvantage.



This pattern is both reflected and reinforced by housing prices. An analysis released today by the real estate company Trulia finds considerable overlap between racial segregation and polarization of housing values across America’s 100 largest metropolitan areas.

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Gated communities in particular, and CIDs in general, seem to have contributed to income segregation. They are usually targeted narrowly to certain bands of the income distribution, and their enforced uniformity in design, etc., caters to common tastes and lifestyles.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Homeowner and HOA engage in bluebonnet battle | kens5.com

Homeowner and HOA engage in bluebonnet battle | kens5.com

At the Park At Two Creeks they have a homeowners association that says each yard has to be well manicured with no weeds and grass cut below six inches. But one property is causing a bit of a disturbance. "We are passionate about our bluebonnets," said Dee Ann Havely, who has lived in the subdivision for 5.5 years, when her bluebonnet bonanza began. "I planted the first ones. They were just small plants five years ago." But now there are hundreds of them covering much of her front yard..."I think common sense tells you: Sometimes rules are meant to be broken," she said. "And I think these flowers should stay."

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Interesting philosophy of rule enforcement. Her "common sense" tells her that sometimes rules are meant to be broken, and by amazing coincidence the rule she has broken is the one that is meant to be broken.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Watch young children crash dad’s important Skype interview with the BBC | WGN-TV

Watch young children crash dad’s important Skype interview with the BBC | WGN-TV:

Best BBC interview ever.

HOA buys personal alarms for kids following attempted abduction - Story | WOFL

HOA buys personal alarms for kids following attempted abduction - Story | WOFL:

"The community is not waiting for law enforcement to increase their sense of security.  Instead, they are footing the bill for each kid to have a personal alarm. "We've raised over $2,000 in the past couple of days," said parent Stephanie Lerret.  "It's a dual-button switch where the student has to hit both buttons to activate if they're in an uncomfortable situation."
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I can't tell from the article whether or  not this headline is correct. "HOA buys" suggests that the association is using their funds to buy the alarms. But the body of the article seems to suggest that parents, or the association BOD, are raising money from voluntary contributions and buying the alarms with those funds. The latter approach seems more likely to me, given that using money from assessments for an expense like this could be questioned.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

These States Aren’t Waiting for Trump to Get Funds for Infrastructure

These States Aren’t Waiting for Trump to Get Funds for Infrastructure: "Republican leaders from at least six states are pushing to raise gasoline taxes or other fees to pay for upgrading roads and bridges, saying they can’t count on President Donald Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan to deliver what they need.

“If a giant golden goose with a red and white and blue flag on it flies over Indiana and drops a golden egg, first we’re going to make sure it’s a golden egg and not some other dropping,” said state Representative Ed Soliday, a Republican who is helping to lead an effort that would raise the state gas tax in Indiana to 28 cents per gallon (from 18 cents), increase registration fees and explore tolling."

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See the post below on the nation's crumbling infrastructure. Tax increases, folks. There is no way around it.

America's infrastructure still rates no better than D+, engineering experts say | US news | The Guardian

America's infrastructure still rates no better than D+, engineering experts say | US news | The Guardian: "America is literally falling apart. The most authoritative report of the nation’s infrastructure gave the country’s crumbling roads, bridges, dams, schools and other essential underpinnings a D+ grade on Thursday. Not a single element of America’s framework received an A grade. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ quadrennial infrastructure “report card” painted a grim picture of the US’s backbone. According to the organization’s analysis, there hasn’t been much improvement in the state of America’s transportation, water, energy, education and waste management programs since the last report was released, in 2013...The report comes after Donald Trump pledged to rebuild America’s broken infrastructure on the campaign trail, plans that appear to have stalled amid a backlash against government spending. It also comes after a series of disasters, including lead in the water of Flint, Michigan, and other municipalities, and the evacuation of 20,000 in California after the near-collapse of a major dam."

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We are drowning in fake crises that politicians use to generate fear so they can control people. Here's a real crisis, and one that only government can solve. Trump talks about it, but has no proposal that will work. Shoveling more tax credits to big business is not going to lead them to suddenly start paying for rebuilding bridges and constructing high-speed rail.

Miami Worldcenter secures bond financing through community development district - South Florida Business Journal

Miami Worldcenter secures bond financing through community development district - South Florida Business Journal

"The $74.1 million was one of the largest CDD bond issuances in South Florida in recent years. For Miami Worldcenter, the CDD bonds will fund street improvements, modernized mass transit stations, new landscaping, widened sidewalks, more water and sewer capacity, electrical work, and new street lights. Located on the north side of downtown Miami, the $2 billion Miami Worldcenter will include condos, apartments, retail, restaurants, and a hotel/convention center."
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Florida has hundreds of these multiple-function special districts that are the building industry's new substitute for cities. Special districts like this can issue bonds and do most of the things that municipalities can do, but they don't have to operate on the one person, one vote principle. They can allocate voting control on the basis of property ownership. That way developers can make all the decisions for the district as long as they control most of the acreage, which might be forever.  That comes in handy. Imagine that the subdivision has the same boundaries as the special district. If you buy a home in the subdivision, you are a taxpayer for the district and there is a line on your property tax bill for the amount you pay to the district. Developers have been known to make nice deals with themselves before they sell any of the lots.  They have the district they control purchase the common elements from themselves (as owner of all the property in the subdivision). Then tens of millions of dollars from the bond sale goes straight into the developer's pocket, and the bondholders get paid off over the next few decades from the property taxes paid by the residents of the district, who are none other than the people who buy the units in the subdivision. 

Portland homeowners win reprieve from maintaining city's trees | OregonLive.com

Portland homeowners win reprieve from maintaining city's trees | OregonLive.com

"Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler plans to quash an effort by city bureaucrats to quietly expand homeowners' responsibilities to care for trees on city-owned land.The proposed new rule would have required Portland property owners to cut down dangerous trees on city property adjacent to their land, even if the trees were located far from the private property...The change would have, for instance, cost at least three Southwest Portland homeowners as much as $3,500 by making clear that they are responsible for cutting down trees more than 50 feet away and inaccessible from their property Current code requires property owners to take care of dying or dangerous trees on their own property, "any adjacent sidewalks, planting strips and trees fronting or upon such private property." The changes would have added "adjacent unimproved or partially-improved rights-of-way" to the places where private property owners are required to remove problem trees."
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I have always found it interesting that city governments impose on homeowners the responsibility to maintain public property. It is common to require them to shovel snow from sidewalks, for example. But dealing with dangerous trees is a much bigger responsibility. It is expensive and requires judgment. And extending that responsibility to adjacent areas is quite a step.