guest blog by Deborah Goonan
I have blogged about the Blossom Park condo conversion recently. In recent weeks, Orange County Fire Department has stationed one of its trucks at the scene, and a structural engineer has examined the buildings, including the staircases and upper decks, deeming most of them unsafe. An official report is due this week, and in the WFTV report linked below; Orange County officials expect to order an official evacuation within days.
The County is now providing financial assistance to move the residents – mostly low-income tenants – to safe housing.
Court-appointed receiver, Frank Barber of Deer Run Realty & Management Company, insists that the problems are not that dire, and has reportedly urged residents to stay. He is relying on fees collected to pay for needed repairs, and — let’s not miss the obvious — to pay for services provided by his company.
Left unsaid in the many news reports: the taxpayers of Orange County are footing the bill to assist Blossom Park residents. And the bill must be substantial, as it includes increased police protection due to high crime and three recent murders in Blossom Park, stationing the Fire Department adjacent to the condo complex, assigning a structural engineer to inspect the condo buildings, and evacuating and then providing 30-days of free housing to hundreds of low-income residents.
Nearby Tymber Skan is another troubled condo complex, complete with squatters, criminals, dilapidated structures, and rats climbing the walls. Taxpayers have paid hundreds of thousands to cover unpaid water bills, police protection, demolition of buildings, and relocation of residents. This has been going on for several years, and its still not over.
So are HOAs really “no-impact” or “low-impact” tax revenue cash cows for local governments? Perhaps in the short term, but what about over the long term?
And are County officials now “heroes” stepping in to save the day? Hardly. Where have they been all these years, when these distressed condos have been left mainly to their own defenses, living conditions growing progressively worse? No one has been held accountable for allowing residents to live in squalor, for failure to manage the financial affairs of these failed Associations, for creating the conditions that allow violent crime and blight to flourish unchecked.
Better yet, how were these condo projects approved in the first place, with such shoddy construction, and why weren’t regular inspections done to ensure deficiencies were identified and repaired early on? It should have been clear to planning and development commissions that many of these developments and redevelopments were doomed to failure and premature obsolescence.
And what about the social impact to residents and surrounding neighborhoods, where people fear for their health and safety? Can we really put a price on the total costs? Decades of neglect by local governments – preferring to allow thousands of HOAs to attempt to govern themselves and manage their own affairs, while collecting property tax revenues from owners – has led to this chaos.
From deteriorating infrastructure to Bully Boards to neighborhoods divided over how their money is being spent, more and more of these stories are being reported and brought to the attention of the public. And what we see reported on the news is only a small percentage of the problems, because, in many HOAs, owners resist going public for fear of scaring away future buyers (or tenants) and reducing property values. In fact, the outspoken owner is often intimidated, harassed, or ostracized for daring to air the dirty laundry, so to speak. It’s a sick, twisted mindset that threatens the very foundation of the American Dream for millions of Americans.