Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pruning Shears: Utopian colonies and the deep roots of the Occupy Movement

Today's CID housing is frequently marketed to tap into people's yearning for a strong sense of community. What is usually missing from the product they deliver, however, is a common sense of values. But from the late 19th century through the early 20th, many people set up their own utopian communities, some religious and some socialistic.  This blog post points out that some of these socialistic communities were similar in a number of ways to the Occupy movement.  It is in part a reaction to a book concerning authoritarian tendencies on the left.  But the larger issue is how to structure rights, control, and privacy in common living arrangements. Today's CID activists tend to be focused on how abusive current forms of CID government are, and some of them offer state law reforms to protect owners, while others demand abolition. But the greater challenge is how to structure CIDs so that they offer residents a richer social life than they would have living in an apartment or detached single family home in the stereotypical faceless suburb.  Is such a goal realistic, or just a fantasy?   
"What is really fascinating (and surprisingly relevant) is Ellis’ coverage of utiopian communities that began to form in the late nineteenth century. Inspired in part by proto-science fiction like Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, these communities withdrew from the larger society in an effort to construct the one they envisioned. While the only separatist type impulses these days seem to be on the right, their governance had striking similarities to Occupy - including its weaknesses....The near-unanimous vote of the general assembly resembles the consensus model used by Occupy. As our group noted last year, a consensus model eventually works to the advantage of those with the most time. Getting 90% approval might represent the overwhelming view of the majority, but it might also might represent 90% of the handful left after an extended and frustrating filibuster."


Fred Pilot said...

The difference here is these were intentional communities whereas CIDs are not. As you write, they feature housing, not community. They are creatures of public policy favoring privatization of local government services and infrastructure and market preferences for affordability in mass market housing and certain desirable amenities.

IC_deLight said...

Unlike in religious colonies where the leader could single-handedly expel dissenters, expulsion in these secular egalitarian colonies often required a near-unanimous vote of the general assembly.

There clearly is no comparison to HOA-burdened housing that is specifically designed to disenfranchise and take from homeowners who do not even have a right to vote. There is an entire trade group that has sprung up to profit from threatening homeowners with "expulsion" to extort vast sums from them. Not only is no vote of homeowners required, the trade group seeks to usurp HOA board authority in the matter. Trade group members regularly "advise" boards to adopt policies designed to create conflict for the benefit of the trade group members. Pretexts for the resolution are "community", "property values", or "aesthetics" or some similar nonsense.

I agree with Fred's comment above with the exception about the "intent”. There was an intent, just not by the homeowners. The local government mandated it, the developer also wanted it. There is no fixing HOAs. They were designed at inception by federal, state, and local government to deprive homeowners of fundamental constitutional rights that would serve as restraints on a legitimate government. They are illicit tax, control, and liability shifting devices designed to benefit everyone EXCEPT the residents and property owners within the territory of the HOA corporation. The marketing of HOA-burdened property is largely grounded in fraud.

The misrepresentations that real estate purveyors will make to hawk HOA burdened property are astounding - many of their continuing education classes were prepared by members of the aforementioned trade group. Real estate agents as a group profit from churn in HOA property and won’t hesitate to advise homeowners to "move if they don't like it" - generating more sales commissions for the real estate brokers and agents.

Real estate agents need to paint HOAs as the epitome of "community" and "democracy" when hawking the property. If they disclose that the HOA corporation is an authoritarian regime and that homeowners have no right to vote - it might negatively impact sales. Check out the link to a discussion with Arizona real estate broker “Captain Bill” who falsely insisted that homeowner had a right to vote in Arizona HOAs.

The broker tried to shoo me away from the forum and advised me to get involved in my own "community" to make change (a common tactic - after all it's your fault the HOA is causing problems because you didn't get involved, right?).

It didn't take long to pull out the subdivision CCRs and HOA Bylaws for the subdivision that the real estate agent was constantly promoting. The CCRs and Bylaws made it pretty clear that the homeowners had i) no vote at all during the development control period, ii) mathematically irrelevant voting for some time after that, and iii) a vote at the whim of the sitting board at a point in time when the homeowners' votes would otherwise have become mathematically relevant.

Do you think a real estate salesperson sitting on an HOA board could really claim that the false claims about a “right to vote” were not knowing, intentional, or willful? Of course the broker would prefer that the discussion be hushed up or that it is just a "local" problem. The real estate industry has a real problem when buyers learn that the problem is UBIQUITOUS with HOA-burdened property.

Check out the discussion. Real estate agents acknowledge a "backlash" against HOA property in general AND this information wasn't censored by the “moderators” as it would have been two years ago.

Uncomfortable with idea of HOA

danps said...

Thanks much for the link and the thoughts on the post, Evan!

Mike Reardon said...

HOAs are de-facto governements, with little to no constraint or oversight on their power

Think..Orwells Animal Farm..

Admittedly it is a challenge to squeeze a "richer social life" out of that.

Is it fantasy to try? More like a Drug-induced hallucination