guest blog by Deborah Goonan
Although HOA horror stories and reports of financial failures of common interest developments are reported daily in the media, industry proponents claim these are “isolated” incidents, that most people are happy under government by CC&Rs, and that buyers actually want more of the same.
When I or others attempt to discuss realities from the HOA resident’s perspective, we hear “HOAs aren’t for everyone,” “move if you don’t like it,” and “stop whining and complaining.”We are told our democratic proposals for reform are “fantasy” and “unrealistic.” Tell me, when did Democracy become taboo?
Today, in response to this arrogant drivel, I was inspired to write the following Open letter to CAI, State, and Federal Policy makers:
For more than a decade, HOA homeowner advocates have proposed many solutions to problems that vex HOAs: one vote per resident, ballot voting for elections, increased government oversight, better buyer disclosure, reforming laws that are skewed in FAVOR of the HOA corporate entity to eliminate the power imbalance it creates for owners. But we have faced consistent opposition every step of the way, not from fellow owners but from special interest groups: notably developers, real estate investors, Real Estate BARs, and management companies – including CAI. In all fairness, it is becoming increasingly apparent that even CAI members and attorneys disagree on policy matters, to include “eminent domain for condos.”
You may think that dismissing those of us that have the audacity to speak out against injustice and bad policy as “whiners” is an effective strategy to silence us. But all that does is prove the arrogant, dismissive attitude that prevails in the industry and our state Legislature that backs the special interests.
I recognize that Florida’s condo takeovers – a seven-year-old practice that is just beginning to get national attention – are a result of their financial failures. I do not object to their dissolution. What I object to is the injustice that results – kicking folks out of their homes, often forcing them to take huge financial losses, and with no effort to make these people whole. It was an injustice to sell those condos at artificially inflated prices in the first place, not to mention all the bad mortgages that resulted in many thousands of foreclosures and personal family tragedies. It was bad policy and greed that led to the failure of many condo and HOA communities.
And at the same time in Florida, millions of dollars are being invested in brand new high-end luxury condos. The folks in the middle and lower income ranges are merely collateral damage. And you can bet that the loans for all those displaced condo owners will become non-performing mortgages. No wonder the banks balk at financing for condos.
Other states also experience similarly owner-unfriendly issues, including local elected officials that seek to relax building codes, and reduce construction defect liability for Developers.
Furthermore, the financial and social model of common interest developments is unsustainable, which will ultimately lead to increased costs for local and state governments as these HOA communities mature. We are already seeing increased evidence of condemnations and HOAs that must appoint receivers because no one wants to serve on the Board of a failing community.
I am thoroughly disheartened by discussing HOA issues with people who refuse to acknowledge the truth and simply do not care about homeowners, tenants, or taxpaying citizens that do not toe the line and conform to the HOA corporate agenda.
I call upon reasonable, responsible, and compassionate State and Federal leaders to recognize that corporate communities are incompatible with American values of Democracy and Equality, and that HOAs exist primarily for the benefits of Real Estate interests. Americans must not be expected to relinquish their rights, freedoms, and financial stability for the sake of increasing the property tax base with high-density development.