guest blog by Deborah Goonan
For many months I have been following multiple news reports involving Blossom Park Condominium in Orlando, Florida. Blossom Park is a former motel that had been converted to condos about a decade ago. Its units were sold at “affordable” prices, most of them promptly leased to tenants. When the recession hit, so did mortgage defaults. Many owners stopped paying their condo assessments. The condo association couldn’t pay its water utility bills. Within a few years, the aging structure began to deteriorate. The stairways have been deemed unsafe by Orange County building inspectors. The building has been deemed hazardous. The pool has become a slimy green swamp.
For the past 4 or 5 years, no one has served on the Board, and the court had to appoint a receiver. The first receiver was later ousted and replaced by a second receiver. For several years, a criminal element has taken up residence in some of the units. Drug dealers prey upon the residents, mostly tenants, and now Blossom Park has become notorious as a site for drug overdoses. Several fatal shootings have occurred there as well.
Orange County has been trying to relocate residents for months. At this point, only about 40 remain, and half of those are reportedly squatters. Just take a look at the deplorable living conditions. The County has already poured millions of dollars into emergency services, crime control, relocation services, and social services.
But the social costs to condo owners, affected residents, and the surrounding communities are immeasurable.
What if you were one of the owners who bought into this condo conversion back in the early days, the very first person in your family to ever own a home, hoping this would be your small piece of the American Dream? And what if that dream became a nightmare, when you could no longer afford rising assessments? What if your home became worthless as your community started to crumble around you? What if you could not feel safe in your own home?
Imagine if you were a child forced to grow up in this environment, because your family had nowhere else to go. How would you feel? What would you do?
The sad fact is that Blossom Park is but one example of many failed condominium (and homeowners) associations. The housing concept that was supposed to improve upon financially impoverished cities – common ownership governed by private homeowners associations – has ultimately resulted in the lowest home ownership rate since the 1960s.