guest blog by Deborah Goonan (IndependentAmericanCommunities.com)
The HOA industry, and the politicians who support the industry – perhaps for dubious reasons – use the same talking point, over and over again:
“Vote the bums out!”
What a joke! As many have pointed out here on this blog, there are many factors that make a mockery of the fair election process in homeowners or condo associations.
The very first problem is that votes are allocated according to the corporate model of governance, and not based upon a democratic basis of “one person, one vote.” In Association Governed Residential Communities, voting interests (notice I did not say “rights”) are tied directly to the share of property owned within the association.
When investors or developers own most of the property, they hold a majority of the voting interests, and therefore control the Board by default. In this respect, life in an HOA is no different than living under a dictatorial, communist, or fascist regime.
Or, another way to look at it is that, as a homeowner, you become an unwilling pawn in a game of hostile corporate takeover.
But even in cases where the developer or investor group are no longer involved, owners can form voting blocs of like-minded property owners to prey upon the remaining owners. One common scenario pits absentee landlord owners against owner occupants. This is especially common in condominium associations.
In 55+ communities, where many of the owners are in their seventies and older, it can be difficult to find candidates for the board who are healthy enough to serve! That opens the door for relatively young but unscrupulous board members to take advantage of senior citizens living on fixed incomes, and dealing with declining health.
The HOA concept is flawed to the core. The foundation is shaky from Day One.
And on top of that, there are no consistent laws that offer adequate consumer protection.
Why have so many of our elected officials failed to recognize that the HOA industry has, in effect, created an alternative local governance scheme that circumvents Constitutional principles? And what’s more, at the local and state level, misguided housing and development policies have encouraged or, in effect, required the establishment of nothing else but Association-Governed Residential Communities across the state and throughout population growth centers in the US.
It’s time to end the denial of abuse of homeowners and residents of these HOAs, COAs. It’s time to recognize that the governance model is flawed, and that, quite often, the financial model is also precarious at best.
This is America, and people need to be able to not only freely choose where they want to live, but they also must be free to live in peace. Americans should not have to risk losing their property equity and financial nest egg — not to mention their physical and mental health — because they have been sucked into a dysfunctional “community” governed by a mandatory association.
If state and local policies keep pushing these HOAs and building condos, there will very soon be no other housing alternatives. The supply of non-HOA, non-condo property to buy is already in short supply in high-growth real estate markets.
I recently relocated to Central Pennsylvania, where HOAs are not as common as they are in areas surrounding population centers of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. States such as Florida (where I lived for about 7 years), California, Virginia, Illinois, Arizona, Colorado, etc. have very high concentrations of HOA/condo property and a great deal of problems as a result. Local governments are increasingly required to provide financial assistance to failed or failing Associations with aging infrastructure and inadequate reserves. The industry does not want you to know about this! Advocates and concerned citizens, don’t allow your state to fall into the same trap!