Consensus Facit Legem

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184 Responses

  1. Kimmi says:

    Do you? HOA’s are more prone to hostile, foreign takeovers than most local governments.Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Kimmi says:

      [Citation needed.]Report

      • Why do you do this?Report

        • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          It’s a form of protest. I support this particular incarnation of this form of protest.Report

        • North in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          Well.. it is a kindof out there assertion no? I mean how can a foreign entity take over an HOA? You only get in by owning a home in it and then by definition you’re not foreign and if you’re hostile you’re essentially shooting your own foot off.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to North says:

            By bribing the people in the HOA. Or by making whatever bylaws you want to pass sound so amusing that people’ll vote for ’em anyhow.Report

          • M.A. in reply to North says:

            HOAs are surprisingly easy to take over (by a “maintenance company”) and most of them start out taken-over when the building entity creates one before building the new subdivision.

            Mine is a good example. We have an “HOA” created by the builders. All of the officers are also employees of the “maintenance company”, which is a subsidiary of the company that handles the builders’ legal services. The charter is not allowed to be amended until all of the lots are sold and the builders officially have nothing more to do with the subdivision save for honoring their warranty terms. Exact day of the single yearly public meeting is announced less than a week in advance, “committee” meetings are not announced or allowed for public visit unless you have pending business with them, and direct contact information for officers and “committee members” is not published, only the phone number and email address for the “HOA Representative” employee of the maintenance company.

            A show of hands got at least 60% last meeting to disband the thing and then these fraudulent assholes whipped out the fine print to show that the HOA can’t be disbanded until all the builders are gone. That was supposed to be scheduled for 2 years ago and would have happened if not for one of the builders pricing tiny homes at a high price that isn’t selling in today’s market.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        10% of people vote in these elections. Do you know if 5% of your neighbors are rabblerousers?

        Does this smell like Dover to you?Report

  2. M.A. says:

    That the new FHA regulations have crushed the market for condos during a real estate downturn is old news.

    First quibble; I don’t think it’s FHA regs that have crushed the market for condos. I think it’s the realization that condos are an inherently bad bargain. You get all the nuisances and restrictions of having an apartment while still having to handle your own repairs, pay your own property taxes. You “own” your home while paying through the nose on the “monthly maintenance fee.”

    I can’t see why anyone would “purchase” a condo.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to M.A. says:

      the ability to paint your walls and put up black drapes.Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to M.A. says:

      Never buy a condo.Report

      • Wardsmith in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

        Old folks and those who don’t feel like taking care of yards might be inclined to buy condos. Then there’s the whole price thing, condos are often cheaper. Finally what about all the liberal push for less sprawl? High density housing is the only way to get there. You could rent but your money all goes into a landlord’s pocket. Marx had something to say about thatReport

        • M.A. in reply to Wardsmith says:

          In the market I live in, you can get a 1400-sqft condo for $120k or you can get a 2000-sqft house for $120k. Which would you pick, assuming you’re sane?Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to M.A. says:

            That’s because you’re a greedy bastard who wants more, more, more for himself. You don’t care about wrecking the environment by driving! You don’t care that the government has to subsidize your single-home suburban lifestyle!Report

            • Kimmi in reply to DensityDuck says:

              Oh, yes, I’m the greedy sod. ME! The Liberal!
              Who doesn’t find blowing $80,000 per CAR a good investment (20 year period, same as a house).
              Ya can buy a lotta house for $80,000 — much more for $160,000 (two cars) in my neck of the woods.
              And you get something at the end of twenty years for that.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Kimmi says:

                It’s unquestioned truth by urban planners that the suburbs only exist because of massive subsidies and that it’s not just uneconomic but actively immoral to live in a single-family home.Report

              • Plinko in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Maybe you should consider revising your moniker to ‘TendentiousDuck’.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to DensityDuck says:

                I know I’ve cited you at least fifty single family homes within my city, in thirty of the 90+ neighborhoods (didn’t bother with the rest).

                Are you deliberately being an asshole here, or what?Report

              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Kimmi says:

                The polite thing to do might simply be to have provided a link to the earlier citation you offered. Could you do that? I’m having trouble finding it.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                3304 Holmes Street. (Lawrenceville)
                1400 Denniston Street. (Squirrel Hill North)
                1017 N. Euclid Avenue (HighLand Park)
                1402 Morningside Avenue (Morningside)
                2919 Stayton Street (Marshall Shadeland)
                1513 Manhattan Street (Manchester)
                936 Girder Street (Hays)

                The list goes on. [I looked these up afresh in googlemaps, so if you see a rowhome, spin the camera around…]Report

        • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Wardsmith says:

          Buy a single-bedroom cottage/bungalow.

          Condo are often cheaper, sure. They’re cheaper because of the attendant, gigantic, bitchass collection of horrid that comes with a condo. The only reason why condos exist as a housing option for purchase by a tenant is because of the mortgage interest deduction.

          High density housing isn’t necessarily limited to condos. In the grand sense (excluding Manhattan, which is its own case), it’s far less important to have packed living space as it is to have residential housing within the proper transportation corridors.

          I understand your point about renting, Ward. But condos are a terrible option for most first-time home buyers, too. They’re very, very difficult to unload in a down market. If you’re a first-time home buyer, you’re very likely to be a young, childless, married couple and then harnessing yourself to something that can’t be unloaded in a down market is worse than saddling yourself with 100K in student debt.

          Oh, as a side note: everybody who works in the mortgage industry who isn’t a loan officer – escrow agents, underwriters, processors, warehouse agents, everybody… they all hate freakin’ condos. They’re a pain in the butt to process. If you want your loan to go through hassle-free, a condo is the wrong way to do it.

          Me, I like my paperwork to come with a minimum amount of bureaucratic hell.

          You’re a first-time home buyer? Get an FHA loan and buy a bungalow.Report

          • wardsmith in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            All fine points Patrick. There are condos and (far worse) there are Co-ops. They are certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but have their place. The one we own has a reasonably good tenant (our son) and the advantage for him is he can walk to work versus his coworkers who have horrendous commutes from their suburban bungalows. There are no “city” bungalows left, they get torn down – to build condos.
            If you follow the link in the OP, you’ll see that the FHA added a lot of headache to the mortgage market vis a vis condos, as usual mandates without the underlying infrastructure. There absolutely are more hoops to jump through for a condo now and realtors would prefer to sell (easier) houses. But over time society can’t keep supporting an unlimited number of new houses and new developments 50 miles away from town.Report

            • Roger in reply to wardsmith says:

              A close relative has a condo worth under $400k and her condo association fees have risen steadily up to $1000 per month.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Roger says:

                Roger, that is happening all over the country as a direct consequence of the FHA’s new regulations I talked about in the OP. Virtually /all/ condos have been deemed to have insufficient reserves, so they are scrambling to raise rates and build reserves. The core premise that the FHA was working from was fundamentally flawed however and as I stated, they are essentially requiring the HOA to build up reserves sufficient to completely replace the building, not merely maintain it. And given that the funds accrued in the reserves balance aren’t going to grow at any appreciable rate, while inflation is going to cause the cost of replacement to go up, the bureaucrats are certain to decide “mere” replacement isn’t enough and things will get worse. Or hopefully we’ll get non-nanny-state bureaucrats in charge for a while and they can undo this fiasco.Report

              • M.A. in reply to wardsmith says:

                I’m not familiar with the regulation in question – can you link it?

                I would agree with requiring the Condo HOA to have certain reserves or provisions for replacement, since a big problem with Condos in general is the ability for one of your neighbors to do something that destroys or damages your living space. Much like the problem of an apartment building, save that you’re on the hook for it as the “owner” rather than only being responsible for your property (and that manageable through renter’s insurance, much cheaper than condo homeowners’ insurance).

                I would imagine that this should mostly come from an insurance policy rather than having to have the full amount in place. So I’d like to see the regulation and understand the change you’re mentioning. If the regulation states that a condo association has to have enough cash on hand to completely rebuild the building even before recouping insurance money, that sounds odd.

                Now if condo associations are doing this voluntarily in hopes of keeping insurance costs down later, that’d be another story. Maybe the insurance of the Condo HOA has high deductibles, presuming that individual homeowners’ insurance and liability insurance will cover any repairs short of a full-building catastrophe?Report

              • wardsmith in reply to M.A. says:

                My 3rd paragraph had links, here was the first one that talked about the FHA regs. Considered posting the original FHA here, but decided to avoid the legalese and bureacratese.

                Re-reading your post I see there are some confusions. Essentially the FHA is requiring the HOA to set aside 10% of the annual budget towards reserves, this has nothing to do with insurance but general maintenance. However this leads to further complications and percentage creep. After all, if they collect $500K in fees before this rule, they now have to collect an additional $50K towards reserves, but now the “budget” is $550K, so they need an additional $5K and so on. But worse is the natural log of 2, which means that (roughly) anything that grows at a 7% compound rate will double in size in 10 years. Grows at 10% – takes 7 years. This doesn’t (and can’t) take into account the potential investment returns on the money, let’s just call it zero. Bottom line, there is going to be a large (and growing) pot that everyone will keep looking at when times get tough, or even when times are good. The temptation will (always) be to dip into that pot. This happens to local governments all the time too, once they build up a sufficient reserve, the “members” (call them taxpayers) will clamor for relief. Instead of doing THAT, the HOA/gov’t will blow the wad, because like the scorpion on the frog’s back, that’s what they do. Here’s a California Reserves Analysis worksheet.Report

              • clawback in reply to wardsmith says:

                The article you linked indicates an HOA must “[m]aintain a reserve equal to 10% of the annual budget”, which is obviously quite different from “set[ting] aside 10% of the annual budget towards reserves”.Report

              • M.A. in reply to wardsmith says:

                Yeah, I’m not sure how that follows. Either someone incredibly bad at math wrote that passage (in the regulation I mean, not you wardsmith) or there’s a misinterpretation going on.

                Now if your Condo HOA was previously living close to the wire every year, and is now being told they have to adjust the budget upwards to have a 10% reserve, then for the first couple years it might be a headache. But a 10% reserve seems relatively sane to me. As stated in the article:

                1) Maintain a reserve equal to 10% of the annual budget: Even completely healthy condominium properties often fail to maintain a reserve of this size, and in many states condominium owners may chose to waive collection of reserves entirely. A truly distressed property, one that needs the government’s help, will never be able to budget for basic services (like water and garbage) and still maintain appropriate reserves. Reserves are kept for emergencies—many communities have actually used their reserves to weather the current crisis.

                So if you’ve used your reserve, and you don’t have it – shouldn’t you be building it up again?

                I don’t disagree with some of the other points your article brings up regarding percentage ownership or percentage of other owners in arrears, mind you.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to wardsmith says:

                Here’s the guidelines in all their bureaucratese.
                One of the most problematic of the new requirements is the new requirement that every condominium association must allocate at least 10% of its income to a capital reserve account and have adequate funds budgeted for casualty insurance deductibles.
                The 10% is a rule of thumb, the Santa Ana office of FHA has a slightly more stringent requirement of 60% of budgeted replacements /already/ in a reserves account. This means for instance that if your condo has a 20 year roof that was put on 10 years ago and the reserves study your HOA pays for determines that a new one will cost $200K, you need to /already/ have $120K in your reserves account, allocated towards that roof you may or may not need 10 yrs from now. And that’s just the roof, never mind the insurance deductible, elevator repairs, new paint and so on.Report

              • clawback in reply to wardsmith says:

                No, the first article you linked to had it right. From the guidelines you linked:

                Provides for the funding of replacement reserves for capital expenditures and
                deferred maintenance in an account representing at least 10% of the budget

            • Patrick Cahalan in reply to wardsmith says:

              Speaking as someone who is moderately familiar with the mortgage industry, I’ll note that FHA loans – while certainly an annoyance for the industry worker – are a subset of “crap we have to deal with to process a loan”.

              In the experience of close family members, the government – while onerous in its regulatory burden – is less of a pain in the ass than other institutions in the industry when it comes to condos.

              Nobody wants to deal with them. Nobody wants to buy the loans that are attached to them (they do anyway, of course, because it’s a lucrative section of the home loan market). They’re loaded with additional risk that doesn’t come into play with a single-family freestanding dwelling, or even a duplex or triplex. The rules for processing these loans always change, because they’re driven by the immediate buyer of the loan, who is always changing the rules in an attempt to unload some of that additional risk.

              Freddie or Fanny may wind up as the ultimate buyer (btw – Mom, the unabashed liberal, hates them both with a passion for reasons with which you’d find much sympathy, Ward) , but the intermediaries make their own rules, and they’re more of a pain in the butt – in the specific case of condos, anyway.Report

            • Kimmi in reply to wardsmith says:

              No city bungalows left? i’ve got 900 sq ft. houses for sale in my neighborhood. Shut up, and go away.
              20% vacancy rate in my city.
              Ain’t nobody tearing down the vacant buildings, no SIR!

              Mr. uninformed much?Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Wardsmith says:

          Finally what about all the liberal push for less sprawl?

          I will confess that this is one of the first thoughts I had in this sub-convo about condos.Report

          • Yeah, me too. Frankly, it’s impossible to build the kind of dense urban development you need to combat the variety of ills that come from sprawl without condos.Report

            • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

              You’re confusing dense urban development with Manhattan.

              Manhattan is a huge edge case. It’s perfectly feasible to have small developments that will house more families per square yard than your standard single-family dwelling with a large yard and attached garage, but people don’t build them.

              Why, I dunno. You still see them here in Pasadena, also places in old Hollywood, middle-sized lots, 4- or 6- or 8-unit properties where they’re all detached and each has a small private patio space but the larger common area makes up almost all of the non-foundation-occupied footer space, and a common parking structure. They were much more common in the 30s and early 40s.

              Post-war, suburbs exploded and everybody’s expectations were reset.Report

              • I think you’re right to some extent, but I consider Manhattan the ideal case.

                Also, I live in DC, where the height restrictions basically ensure that everyone either owns a spectacularly expensive townhouse, owns a condo, rents an apartment, or lives somewhere I have basically zero interest in living. It’s likely DC could fix some of this by eliminating the building restriction and letting the population do some resorting, but I still don’t see how you get the population densely clustered without single buildings containing multiple units.Report

              • For someone who spends a lot of time scoffing at it, I’m actually a little attracted by the Manhattan model. Or at least the MFUs and building up instead of out (Manhattan itself is too cramped and too expensive). One of the rubs for me is precisely the ownership thing. You can rent, and not own. You can get a condo, but that’s only sort of owning. You own it like a stock that you can sell later, but you lack dominion over what you do own. Which, to me, is less than complete ownership. The same applies to houses with HOA’s, but with subdivisions these things are so often unnecessary (and thus I can simply hate them) but with condos, you have to do more regulation because what you do is more likely to affect your neighbors than in the land of picket fences.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                I consider Pittsburgh to be the ideal case. Or at least something verging on close enough. (Portland’ll do if you want to look west coast).

                Walkable neighborhoods, good parks (frick is HUGE), good cost of living, good cost to buy houses.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kimmi says:

                Pittsburgh is also a special case. It’s hard for cities of its size and comparative success to stay as cheap (and non-expansive) as it is.

                Portland loses points on the whole cost-of-living thing. Also, something about jobs, which plays in.Report

            • Kimmi in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

              NOT HERE It ain’t!

              Small cities! You poke your google-head in Squirrel Hill. Dense Dense Dense. Very few condos. Residential homes in Shadyside, Pointbreeze. Lotta places in the city like that.

              Maybe if you had to move all of allegheny county into pittsburgh. Nope. sorry, that doesn’t even cut it. 1Milliion in the metro? we have 300,000 in the city. Double the population (easy, that just puts it back to 1960’s levels), you’ve got 600,000. Leave Mt. Lebo and the “too many bridges” inner ring suburbs, and we can handle everyone.

              Mostly single unit dwellings, some duplexes. Very few condos.Report

              • Ryan Noonan in reply to Kimmi says:

                Squirrel Hill has a Walk Score of about 70. The average for DC is 73. My neighborhood (Adams Morgan) has a score of 90.

                I’m not saying that I have anything against places that are slightly less dense, or that they can’t be the kind of places that combat a general trend toward sprawl, but my notion of “dense” has a place like Squirrel Hill on the lower bound.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                Lol, my neighborhood has a walk score of 9. That would be a bad thing no? Of course they don’t consider walking in the woods to be a good thing apparently.

                Pittsburgh is a failing city in a failing state. Other than that no problems. Like Detroit, the fact that it is a shadow of its former self should serve as a warning to the unwary. Or not, Kimmi seems to enjoy it there and is either employed or on Social Security.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to wardsmith says:

                Pittsburgh is in no way like Detroit. The city has actually doing pretty damn well thanks to investing in infrastructure and changing the focus of their city from steel mills to health care, biotech, and higher education.Report

              • Ryan Noonan in reply to wardsmith says:

                Well, depending on your definition of “bad”. Contra Duck, I don’t think many urbanist liberals necessarily consider rural, suburban, or exurban life morally bad. One of the key tenets of liberalism, whether we like to remember it or not (*cough* Bloomberg *cough*), is that pluralism and individual choice are good things.

                Speaking only for myself, I think there are large economic and social benefits to concentrating population in dense environments, and I also think we’d have a lot more of that concentration if we didn’t write our laws, regulations, and tax codes in a way that subsidizes a certain way of life. I’m not, I repeat, against that way of life, but I am against using the state to encourage an arrangement that appears to be less efficient than the arrangement we’d have without the state interfering.

                [Edited to clarify the last sentence.]Report

              • Will Truman in reply to wardsmith says:

                Pittsburgh and Detroit are not remotely comparable.Report

              • Poor Detroit. I can’t even begin to offer a defense.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Will Truman says:

                pittsburgh and CLEVELAND are not remotely comparable.
                poor cleveland.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Will Truman says:

                My sentence was to compare the relative /sizes/ of the two towns, they are both shadows of their former selves in size. Pitt isn’t as bad as it once was, but still not a place I would consider living. I’ve lost count of the number of people I know who are /from/ there. Never met someone who was moving /to/ there.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Will Truman says:

                Yes, twenty to thirty years ago, a lot of people were moving out of Pittsburgh, because it was in the midst of restructuring.

                Now, though, Pittsburgh has the tenth lowest unemployment rate of any metro area. (

              • Kimmi in reply to Will Truman says:

                yup. people tend to love the place and stay after college.

                All bubbles must burst, and pittsburgh steel was a big bubble for the region. That bubble bursting saved us from a ton of housing related awfulness, though.

                Our population’s growing again, if you can believe it.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Will Truman says:

                So Jessie, if we can just get rid of all those unemployed people, we’d solve the unemployment rate? Actually the OP I’m writing in my head will talk about this.

                Pittsburgh is roughly half its former size and so is Detroit. There are empty houses in both places because the owners have moved and there isn’t anyone interested in replacing them. Even Romney’s old house was bulldozed and it was a mansion. I’ve watched my own cities destroyed by unions I /could/ blame the cities…Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Will Truman says:

                lot fewer buildings than people who left. 20% vacancy. 50% population loss.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Will Truman says:

                Kimmi, now you’re just being vapid. 50% of the PEOPLE left and 20% BUILDING vacancy. Now just how many PEOPLE live in a building? Your city was built up to house a population of almost 700K, now you’re down around 300K. Some of those buildings were torn down, some burned down, a tiny percentage were renovated and one old person might be living in a house that used to hold 5 kids and two parents six of them gone now.Report

              • Ward, leaving aside the metro/city distinction (Pitt Metro has lost only about 15% in the last 50 years), doesn’t Detroit actually help demonstrate that losing people doesn’t exactly help the unemployment rate?Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Will Truman says:

                Will, I think you’re wrong about the 15%. My source says it lost almost 50% as did Detroit. Of course Detroit went from almost 2 million down to 1m. This article does a good job of comparing them head to head. If I could put in another link, it would be to something from RoboCop about Detroit. Ahh so many to choose from..Report

              • 15% is the metro. 50% is the city. Jesse’s stat was about the metro.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Will Truman says:

                Got it Will, but apparently Detroit’s metro area has /grown/ not diminished. This is why statistics are such a bitch, what are we comparing when we do comparisons? This will get even uglier in the inequality posts to come because there will be apparently contradictory numbers flying back and forth based on iffy statistics that will not be as clearly defined as geographic populations. Cities die because they get too much like bad HOA’s and people don’t want to live there anymore.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Will Truman says:

                Actually, Detroit is now down to ~800,000, and continues to decline. I think the only city in the U.S. that really has comparable population loss may be Buffalo. (I’ve only heard that anecdotally about Buffalo, though, so if I’m wrong, please flame me kindly.)Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Will Truman says:

                I don’t know if Buffalo’s declined, or if after January 1994 people just refused to acknowledge that they lived there.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Will Truman says:

                Was that their 4th consecutive Super Bowl loss?Report

              • Ward,

                It actually gets a little more complicated than that. The population that has grown is the Detroit Region (CSA). Detroit Metro was 4,490,902 in 1970 and is 4,296,250 now. Net loss, though less than Pitt Metro (and certainly less than Detroit proper).

                Relevant to the discussion, though, was that Pittsburgh always included an area of which City of Pittsburgh was only a component. At its height, Pitt City was only a quarter or so of Pitt Metro, while Detroit City was over half of Detroit Metro. Salt Lake City and Seattle are like Pittsburgh in this regard: Not huge cities, but flagships for a significant collection of cities.

                I think that for the sake of employment numbers, the best place to look is going to be Metro. Detroit and Pittsburgh tell pretty different stories.

                Coming from the south, and a rapidly growing city at that, I take pride in our city’s growth and ability to attract people from all over the country. So there’s a natural tendency to look at cities in the east and say “Nyah!” But in the greater scheme of things, it doesn’t matter all that much. In fact, that Pittsburgh’s (metro) population has stagnated and declined somewhat helps make it one of the most affordable cities east of the Mississippi. I think affordability is a great thing. Of course, at what cost? Well, unlike Detroit, it doesn’t seem to be at the cost of unemployment. And most of the financial stats for the metro I’ve seen look good.

                That’s one of the major reasons I just wouldn’t put it in a category with Detroit or Cleveland. I find the fact that they’re not like those cities to actually be pretty impressive.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Will Truman says:

                Will, off the top of my head I knew that Pittsburgh and Detroit (cities) had lost roughly half their populations. The (inadvertently long) link I gave you in this post shows that Detroit has lost 45.9% from its peak and Pitt 48.2%. Hanley will be pleased to know Buffalo has lost 46.4%. Those numbers are from 1996 for some reason, not sure why Demographia stopped there.

                I don’t know if you could tell but in the same post I linked to an article in the NYT that directly compared Detroit and Pittsburgh. I really liked the comments.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman says:

                Was that their 4th consecutive Super Bowl loss?


              • James Hanley in reply to Will Truman says:

                At least I got that one right, but I still can’t ever figure out the Monday Trivia at NaPP.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Will Truman says:

                Pittsburgh and Detroit are not remotely comparable.

                Cities that have declined in population? Check.

                Cities in the Great Lakes region? Check.

                Cities on a river? Check.

                Cities with a professional football team? Check.

                Cities with a professional baseball team? Check.

                Cities with a professional hockey team? Check.

                Cities with two syllable names? Check.

                I don’t know, that didn’t seem so hard. 😉Report

              • Kimmi in reply to wardsmith says:

                Pittsburgh, the place with one of the largest research institutions around? Pittsburgh, the place with one of the largest medical research hospitals around?
                Pittsburgh, which has one of the most educated workforces in the country?
                Pittsburgh, home of Heinz, Alcoa, USS, PPG?

                Well, now, at least we’re better than Phoenix.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                Try 83 for North Squirrel Hill’s walk score. (that was where I used to rent). Poke your head around it.
                And I’ll agree that it’s probably less dense than DC is, on average.

                Walk score would probably be a lot better if it asked you “how far are you willing to walk for XYZ.” People on my block willingly walk over a mile for groceries, and they’re in their 60’s or 70’s. I willingly walk 3 miles each way to get to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. It’s a bit of a walk, but not “oh my gawd!” levels.

                Also, squirrel hill is suffering from a bit of commercial depopulation, or I’d be getting a much better score. (one movie theater closed, the other is a mile away. big whoop, right?)Report

        • Kimmi in reply to Wardsmith says:

          Ward, I am against sprawl. I want single unit/dual unit and apartments in my city. We have tons of single unit dwellings. in my city.

          High density housing is NOT the only way to get there. Smaller lots, decent shops in walking distance, and good public transportation are the ways to get there.Report

    • Ryan Noonan in reply to M.A. says:

      I’d say the major reason to buy a condo, and the reason I own one, is that it would otherwise be impossible to live in the neighborhood I want to live in. I’m not going to move to the (shudder) suburbs just so I can feel superior about owning a house. As far as I’m concerned, living in the suburbs sounds substantially more horrifying than all but the worst money pits.Report

      • North in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

        Ditto here, I could own a condo and have a 5 minute commute (or a walk in the summer) or I could own a house and have a thirty minute commute. The choice was a no brainer for me. Also I loath yard maintenance with a passion almost holy.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to M.A. says:

      I think the degree to which a condo is a good investment or not has nothing to do with regulations or HOAs. Rather, it has everything to do with where you live. For years, condos were considered a bad move in Portland, because we’re simply not a dense metropolis. But a revamping of a small industrial area now makes condos (at least in that neIghborhood) the safest bets in the city (assuming you can afford them.)

      I think a a lot of people look at where they live and over-extrapolate about a lot of things.Report

  3. Jason Kuznicki says:

    CC&Rs appear to exist only so that they may be selectively enforced. My own neighborhood has a policy forbidding detached storage sheds, but there are quite a few of them up anyway.

    I’d volunteer to be a part of the HOA board, but I would hate to either (a) preside over a bunch of rules I know are bullshit or (b) turn into the guy who busts all his neighbors over their perfectly presentable and wholly inoffensive storage sheds.

    My hope is that HOAs are a fad that will soon expire. I’m not sure they will be, however, as it seems that developers are fairly keen on them. I’m less than clear on why this should be.Report

    • Bad-ass Motherfisher in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      If they’re a fad, they’re a long lasting one. I know someone that bought a building in Glendale, CA, which had a CCR (well, title restriction, actually) from the 30s, prohibiting the new owner from re-selling the property to a negro or a Jew.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      developers want to ensure that everyone can live in their boxes of tiffy tacky, and that they’ll all look just the same.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      How is a homeowner’s association different from a town council?

      “I’d volunteer to be a part of the HOA board, but I would hate to either (a) preside over a bunch of rules I know are bullshit or (b) turn into the guy who busts all his neighbors over their perfectly presentable and wholly inoffensive storage sheds.”

      So why not volunteer and (a) refuse to be That Guy, and (b) work to dismantle the “bullshit” rules to keep future That Guys from being able to do anything?Report

    • Roger in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      There seems to be some strange attractor at work.

      I can see the benefit of having a few, simple rules to prevent people from destroying a neighborhood. It seems though that once they start writing rules, that the bureaucratic demon inside takes over and we get 50 pages of BS.

      Once again, where a few simple rules are good, we get a system that devolves into a bureaucratic nanny state.Report

      • wardsmith in reply to Roger says:

        Bingo! Wins the threadReport

      • Will Truman in reply to Roger says:

        It’s at least partially a question of norms. Few will care if you change your oil. Lots of people will care if you have your car sitting in the driveway as you try to replace the transmission. When you can’t trust people not to do the latter, you have to institute a rule for the former. I mean, you don’t have to make the rule “you can’t change your oil”… but, you know, since you’re making the rule anyway, you might as well define, under penalty of fine, exactly how you want the community to operate.

        Which goes a bit to what I was saying yesterday: When culture fails, the law steps in. With gusto, sometimes.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Will Truman says:

          And plenty of people will care if you have a car that sits in your driveway for two years, quietly rusting, jack sinking into the asphalt, getting tagged by the local street artists.

          But there’s always that guy who insists that unless it’s in the rulebook you can’t do anything about it. And he always seems to find some way that what’s written in the rulebook doesn’t apply to him. Or he just throws up his hands and cries to heaven that nobody could possibly be expected to read 500 pages of fine-print lawyerese.

          So you write general, simple, plain-language rules–“no car maintenance on the premises”, “no parking for more than 48 hours”. Then people bitch about draconian overreach.Report

          • Yeah. A while lot of these rules are in response to something undesirable. The rules themselves are an overreaction much of the time and often unnecessary in my view, but because we don’t want that guy with the car that sits in the driveway for weeks or months on end, we have to either use social mechanics (stink eye)… and when/if that doesn’t work, you institute a rule. And rules, to work, need consequences.

            And beyond that, most people would rather live in a neighborhood with people who like rules than people who don’t like rules. And so even if you don’t like the rules yourself, and even if you don’t even think of it in terms of liking or disliking rules, you might end up in a place where you have these rules anyway. Which is a trade-off you make, though I don’t consider complaining about the downsides of the tradeoff to be inappropriate.Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to Will Truman says:

              The problem I have with depending on social mechanics is that if they were going to work on the people whose behavior you were trying to change, then you wouldn’t need the mechanics because they wouldn’t behave like that in the first place.

              “most people would rather live in a neighborhood with people who like rules than people who don’t like rules.”

              Considering that the first is a functional definition of “society”, that’s not surprising.Report

              • The problem I have with depending on social mechanics is that if they were going to work on the people whose behavior you were trying to change, then you wouldn’t need the mechanics because they wouldn’t behave like that in the first place.

                Often, though not always, true. A lot of people are followers. They don’t know what matters to other people. Stuff like that. We had kind of let our yard go to pot, hadn’t thought much of it. Someone said something and we got with our landlords about it. This sort of thing happens all the time.

                The problem is that it can’t be relied on. So it becomes a question of how much compliance is necessary. If the social mechanics keep 98% of people in line, and nobody wants to be like that other 2% (so you don’t have to worry about it spreading), then can we just let it go? Sometimes the answer is yes. Sometimes it’s no. It depends on the community.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Will Truman says:

                It is true that sometimes it’s just a matter of not being aware that there’s a problem. If the plants you’ve put out start growing through a fence and colonizing the neighbor’s yard, you wouldn’t necessarily know about it.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Isn’t there a saying… never attribute to maliciousness what can be attributed to stupidity?

                There certainly are jerks out there, who do what they do without giving a shit what other people think or even to deliberately piss people off. But there are also folks who simply don’t know any better.

                I try to assume positive intent. Assume the best. Give a heads up, even before the stink eye. “Hey, man, did you know that blah blah blah makes some of us feel yada yada yada? I doubt you meant, but we thought you’d like to know how we feel.” And move up the ladder from there.

                For the jerks, yea, that is always harder.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

                the darwin awards are sometimes a dramatic counterargument to that saying.
                it’s always easier if ruled an accident.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to DensityDuck says:


      • M.A. in reply to Roger says:

        The explanation for this is simple: HOA CCR’s are written by lawyers. In many cases, they’re written by lawyers hired by the builders, attached to the maintenance company, and all the rules are written before the first house is sold. So they pile in every clause they can think of, whether or not it makes sense – and when the guys down the road come up with a new clause, they force it in without asking for existing community approval.Report

        • Roger in reply to M.A. says:

          Society needs a reset button. Over time, regulations, bureaucracy and rent seekers just keep on accumulating. We’ve added so much duct tape, that we have lost sight of what is under it all.

          Someone needs to invent a peaceful, practical way to build a social reset button.Report

    • Rod in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      My hope is that HOAs are a fad that will soon expire. I’m not sure they will be, however, as it seems that developers are fairly keen on them. I’m less than clear on why this should be.

      The developer is just trying to protect his investment until he’s clear of it. I mean… he’s likely got millions tied up for several years; acquiring land, planning, permits, architects, streets, water/sewer/etc, all on top of just building a bunch of houses. Start to ultimate finish could be… what? Ten, twenty years? Maybe more, I really have no idea.Report

      • wardsmith in reply to Rod says:

        Rod, I didn’t say it clearly in the OP but one point I wanted to flesh out was that HOA’s are welcomed by cities because HOA’s do the work the city is /supposed/ to be doing in the first place. Your post has much of it: Streets, water, sewer etc. In places like Phoenix, HOA’s have put together mini-sewage treatment plants, handle 100% of the street lighting, hired their own police (cough Zimmerman cough), handle the garbage pickup and so on. What is left for the city to do but collect taxes (and apparently keep them)? Add in crony permitting (no new developments in quadrant X unless they come with HOA’s to do all our work for us) and we can see why HOA’s have come to dominate new development.Report

        • James Hanley in reply to wardsmith says:

          Wait, you’re implying that it’s not simply the unfettered free market that’s brought us these horrors, but….gasp…government?! You rightwing neonazi fascist libertarian nutjob, don’t you know all bad things are the result solely of those so-called “free” markets?Report

  4. BlaiseP says:

    It seems to me a good contract lawyer could successfully attack an HOA. I’ve only lived under one but the covenant was a joke.Report

  5. M.A. says:

    Just to make my point about HOA’s:

    – If they listened to, and were normally run by, members of the community then I would not have as big an issue with them.
    – If their regulations were fair, and legally limited to reasonable restrictions, then I would not have as big an issue with them.

    Where I have a problem is that their regulations are draconian, that they can get away with some horrendous things that even a city government could not get away with, and that they do so capriciously. Worse still is that my situation is much like yours; our “HOA Officers” are all employees of the maintenance company. The maintenance company cannot be fired, or the HOA charter amended, until such time as all the builders in our area have finished construction and the last house been sold (this was scheduled to happen 2 years ago, but one builder is a fishing crappy builder and is sitting on 10 unbuilt lots because 20 of their existing houses are too overpriced and won’t sell).

    Among the restrictions come up by the maintenance company and builders:
    – A limit on 2 pets, to a maximum of 120 pounds aggregate weight. God forbid you should take in a needy kitten to foster in a time when shelters are overwhelmed, or adopt a non-purebred puppy from the Humane Society or SPCA only to find out that it’s part Newfie.

    – A restriction on setting up clotheslines. That’s right, I can’t save energy and dry my laundry in the sun on a clear day without risking a fine. Everything has to go through the indoor dryer.

    – A restriction on growing “herbs” in front planters. Can’t grow anything edible in view of the street, despite the fact that many “herbs” are a hell of a lot more beautiful than the fishing ugly, cheap, thorny shrubs the builders put in by default.

    – A restriction on leasing the house. If I move into a bigger one or transfer to a job out of town, I had better hope it sells.

    – A restriction on the placement of cars. Much like your RV situation, if I am home sick for 3 days with my car parked in the front driveway, I have to “move” it at least once to avoid the threat of being fined.

    – No vehicle shall be “repaired while in view of the public.” If I try to change my own car’s oil with the garage door open, I’ll get yelled at. I’ve seen a neighbor yelled at for changing a flat tire.

    – A “right to inspect” clause; they have the “right” to trespass on my property without permission or announcement.

    – A restriction on signage on the front of the house. If I want to hang a little placard on the front walkway that says “Bag End” on it, I have to get a waiver.

    And then there’s what an HOA can do to you over frighteningly small sums of money.Report

    • M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

      Darnit. Miscounted my links. Would someone approve my comment please?Report

    • Plinko in reply to M.A. says:

      I’m blown away that someone would buy a property subject to these kind of rules.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Plinko says:

        “I don’t mind if I can’t do something, so long as you can’t do it either.”

        So long as you’re banning things that you’d never do, it’ll never really affect you.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Plinko says:

        nobody reads the dang rules.
        and nobody mostly enforces the dang rules.
        mostly, mind.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Kimmi says:

          Yeah; most HOA stories start with “I didn’t know that the rules said…”

          In other words, “I figured that Do What Thou Wilt was the whole of the law, and it turned out that not everyone agreed with me”.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Plinko says:

        In some parts of the country,they are the norm or something close to it. You have to go out of your way to find housing that does not have these rules. It becomes a circular thing. The people in the neighborhoods that this doesn’t apply to are specifically the type to have cars on cinder blocks on the front lawn and such. So it creates a situation where you have to have rules for everything or you attract the people who detest rules, and the divide becomes ever-greater.

        Personally, I’ll take the car on cinder blocks on the front lawn. Fortunately, living where I do, I don’t have the tradeoffs that MA does.Report

        • MikeSchilling in reply to Will Truman says:

          From Donald E. Westlake’s Drowned Hopes. If you’ve never read his Dortmunder books, well, you’ve missed out. Suffice it to say that in this one a bunch of crooks from New York City are living upstate while they plan a heist:

          Stan had brought home a dark blue Lincoln Atlantis, a huge old steamboat of a car, which he was “fixing up” in the driveway beside the house. Along about the third day, May came out onto the porch and with her hands in a dish towel — she’d never done that before, was doing it unconsciously now — and looked with disapproval at what Stan, with help from Tiny, was wroughting.

          On newspapers spread on the lawn squatted any number of automobile parts, all caked with black oily grime. The Lincoln’s huge hood had been removed from the car and now leaned against the chain-link fence like a Titan’s shield. The moth-eaten old backseat was out and lying on the gravel between the car and the street in plain sight of the entire neighborhood.

          “Stan,” May said, “I’ve gotten two phone calls already today.”

          Stan and Tiny lifted their heads out of the hoodless engine compartment. They were as grimy and oil-streaked as the auto parts. Stan asked, “Yeah?”

          “About this car,” May told him.

          “Not for sale,” Stan said.

          “One, there’s no papers,” Tiny added.

          Stan was about to dive back into his disassembled engine when May said, “Complaints about the car.”

          They looked at her in surprise. Stan said, “Complaints?”

          “It’s an eyesore. The neighbors think it distracts from the tone.”

          Tiny scratched his oily head with and oily hand. “Tone? Whaddya mean, tone?”

          “The quality of the neighborhood,” May told him.

          “That’s some quality,” Stan said, getting a little miffed. “Down where I live in Brooklyn, I got two, three cars I’m working on at a time, I never get a complaint. All over the neighborhood, guys are working on their cars. And it’s a terrific neighborhood. So what’s the big deal?”

          “Well, look around this neighborhood,” May advised him, taking one hand out from under the dish towel to wave it generally about. “These people are neat, Stan, they’re clean. That’s the way they like it.”

          Gazing up and down the street, Stan said, “How do they fix their cars?”

          “I think,” May said carefully, “they take them to the garage for the mechanic to fix, when something goes wrong.”

          Appalled, Stan said, “They don’t fix their own cars? And they complain about me?”Report

    • Scott in reply to M.A. says:

      If things are so bad then why did you buy into that community in the first place? If you did so voluntarily then stop bitching.Report

      • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Scott says:

        Do you really mean to suggest that there is never any such thing as a tradeoff? A decision that may include real costs as well as benefits?

        I don’t think anyone here is saying that the HOA makes the house a bad deal on net. They’re just saying that some of the costs associated with acquiring the house can and should be dispensed with.Report

      • M.A. in reply to Scott says:

        If things are so bad then why did you buy into that community in the first place? If you did so voluntarily then stop bitching.

        First reason: because it was in a neighborhood that allowed me a reasonable commute to/from work.

        Second problem with your statement, you fishing trolling ignoramus, is that 4 of these changes were introduced after I moved in, passed in “committee meetings” not open to the HOA at large and added to the CCR by the maintenance company on a “majority vote of the builders”, who retain that power until all builders have finished construction and sold all their lots. They did it the year after all the lots were originally scheduled to be sold.Report

        • Jason Kuznicki in reply to M.A. says:

          Genuflecting to authority is pretty much what Scott does around here, except when that authority is wielded by Democrats.Report

        • Plinko in reply to M.A. says:

          I’ve been a little busy to draft the comment I want to make to ward’s overall post but there you have a good point. To me, HOA’s are OK insofar as you buy in to a set of known rules, but the idea that the association can change your property rules after the fact is highly problematic if the HOA is allowed to have any restriction or veto on the sale of your property, much moreso if you’re not allowed representation in the decision-making process.

          On the other hand, your situation is a very unfortunate reminder that extra-contractual “promises” from people selling you things are worth approximately nothing. People often don’t think about the implications of contracts they sign where the other party has essentially all the rights to alter terms and you have none, but this is what can and will occur.Report

        • wardsmith in reply to M.A. says:

          M.A. I’m sorry things are going badly for you there. Similar to the situation with the HOA my wife does accounting for, the commingling of “maintenance and management” is a recipe for something akin to embezzlement. I don’t know what state you are in, but in my state HOA’s are subject to audit and are required to submit financial statements to members every year. In point of fact mine hasn’t done one in 12 yrs that I know of, but if they ever got me in a pissing match I’d be sure and remind them of this requirement among others.

          Adding elements after the fact is likewise contract under duress and easily broken. A group of like-minded members could put a serious crimp in the HOA running roughshod over you, but I wouldn’t start my first salvo as a lawsuit delivered by an attorney. I’d get my ducks in a row first and do all the legwork. Most likely you’ll find one (or ten) things they’re doing wrong and then you can use that as leverage to get what you want. What is it you do want?Report

          • wardsmith in reply to wardsmith says:

            MA, found this site. Near as I can determine from some quick scanning, the HOA audit rules are state by state so your mileage may vary. However as the comments demonstrated, there are certainly areas where suspicious activity can occur:
            Thank you everyone for your help. As this point the HOA books have not been balanced since 2006. What I mean by balanced is the audit figures have never been balanced with the Prop Mgnt.Yes I know HOW is this possible. I’ve driven myself crazy trying to go back in time to find where mistakes were made. I have found several such has $36K was charged to reserves and then the same amount was voided the following year, a vendor was paid three times the same amount for work with identical description of work done, any my favorite $9,700 office supplies expense (budget $2,000) 33% was paid by a check written on the last day of that year? My budget doesn’t have a line item for office supplies (LOL) I’m assuming I will have to write a resolution to fix this mess right? Should I contact the HOA attorney to write this? This year is my first year being treasurer do I have a duty to futher investigate this is so how should I go about it? Thank you

            This is similar to the kinds of things my wife found when she “looked into” the books of the HOA as a favor. Needless to say firing the management and maintenance companies was a slam dunk once these things saw the light of day.Report

          • M.A. in reply to wardsmith says:

            A good start would be the decoupling of HOA officerships from the maintenance company.

            Most of the rules I brought up have no place in anything. I grew up with my mother making hanging the laundry to dry and bringing it back in one of my chores, for starters.

            I don’t really have an issue with the lawnmowing requirements (they don’t do much more than mirror the local city ordinance in any event). Some sensible restrictions – such as making sure a house is in good repair – I can get behind. It does hurt a neighborhood when someone’s got paint flaking off the side of the house and a collapsing roof; it doesn’t when they change their own oil or rotate their own tires in the driveway.

            One of the things that really annoys me is the pets restriction. The city already has an ordinance on pet hoarding, so why do we need a further restriction? Near as I can tell it just means that adoptable animals in the overfull rescue shelters go un-adopted for fear of an HOA fine.

            As for passing CCR amendments without a public vote? Without a properly announced meeting? Yeah – that sticks in my craw something fierce.Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to M.A. says:

              It doesn’t hurt, except when the guy changing his own oil accidentally spills it and it goes down the storm drain and now the HOA’s on the hook for the county hazmat cleanup crew. “Oh, well he should just pay for it himself!” Nope; if there’s an HOA that’s responsible for the common property, then it’s also responsible for what goes in the storm drains, and without a specific “no automobile maintenance” rule they’ll spend years in court trying to wrangle payment out of the homeowner.

              “The city already has an ordinance on pet hoarding, so why do we need a further restriction? ”

              barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark barkbarkbarkbarkbark barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark
              bark barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark

              barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark

              (knock knock)”excuse me could you try to keep the dogs–”

              • I’m torn between my usual response to your comments (rolling my eyes) and a standing ovation. This is weird.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                Coffee spurting out of my nose funny Ryan and kudos Duck for being your usual acerbic self. Don’t change a thing.Report

              • M.A. in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                I’m not. DensityDuck’s a fishing troll and there’s a reason I refuse to engage him directly.

                The response he gave above? Every response he gave above is either meaningless or misrepresented.

                A small amount of automotive oil spilled down a storm drain isn’t a hazmat cleanup, though a courtesy call to the local water authority is usually well taken.

                Pet hoarding ordinances and city noise ordinances come into play for his other garbage response. You did your duty; you knocked on the door and asked him to try to keep his dogs under control. He told you to go pound sand? That’s when you call in a complaint under the local noise and hoarding ordinances. There’s police and animal control officers for a reason, you pay taxes for their work.

                But those are reasonable, sane responses. And reasonable, sane responses don’t matter in a boring black-and-white troll world.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to M.A. says:

                You know, you should look up the definition of a word before you start throwing it around. “disagrees with me” is not a synonym for “troll”.Report

              • M.A. in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Nope. You fit. Buh-bye now.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to DensityDuck says:

                I look forward to your explanation to the EPA of how dumping used motor oil into the watershed is just a tiny thing that nobody needs to worry about.Report

              • M.A. in reply to DensityDuck says:

                I suggest someone sue you for every drop of oil that’s ever leaked out of your crankcase while parked on the side of a street somewhere.

                Now fish off.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to DensityDuck says:

                You’re gonna have a long row to hoe if you want to convince people around here that regulation is neither a common nor a wise response to liability issues.Report

              • M.A. in reply to DensityDuck says:

                This from someone who habitually argues that all regulation and government is bad and that everything would be perfect if we existed in a state of 100% anarchy with the government “getting out of our way”?Report

              • MA, Duck has never argued many things, but not that. That is not an accurate description even on a hyperbolic level.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

                M.A.’s just our latest case of a newly arrived liberal announcing himself by making strawman assertions about non-liberals. He seems pretty bright, so hopefully he’ll take the hint soon and stop behaving that way.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to James Hanley says:

                Better thee than me, although the bell eventually tolls for us all.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Scott says:

        If you don’t want an HOA, there’s always Somalia.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to M.A. says:

      Is it worth going through why those rules might exist, or is your knee jerking so hard that you can’t hear what anyone else is saying?

      “And then there’s what an HOA can do to you over frighteningly small sums of money.”

      You’re right; the fact that drone strikes continue mean that the Democrat ideology is bankrupt.

      Oh wait, you think that I shouldn’t take a single outlier example of something awful happening, ignore all the circumstances and reasoning and context, and use it to make generalizations about an entire concept? Welp.Report

    • A Teacher in reply to M.A. says:

      On the pet issue:

      Do ~you~ want to be trying to sell a house next to “The Cat Lady” whose house is one step away from being condemed because the cat urine has soaked into the floor boards to the point where they may fall into the basement?

      There are laws if it gets ~bad~ enough, but there’s that whole gray area where it’s bad enough to affect your ability to sell but not bad enough to bring legal action.Report

  6. Scott says:

    I think the HOA regs are part of the decision when buying a house, if you think they are too restrictive then don’t buy it. When my in laws were selling their house in Seattle, the HOA was a deal breaker for one hippie couple that was interested. Atleast the hippies were honest to themselves about what they would stand.Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Scott says:

      Again, you are confusing two different claims.

      The first claim is that HOA restrictions may actually be so bad that you shouldn’t even buy the house. This is entirely possible, and it’s a reasonable thing to say so when the regulations do get that bad.

      The second claim is that the house may be a great deal on the whole even when the HOA restrictions are pretty bad. That’s the situation I think many people are in right now. In their case, it’s completely legitimate to complain about the HOA, just as it would be completely legitimate to complain about — and fix — an otherwise perfect house with a leaky kitchen faucet.

      So. I’d ask that you drop this line of argument. Or else just never complain again about Barack Obama. If you really don’t like him so much, you shouldn’t be living here.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        awww somebody’s butthurt

        I’m pretty sure that Scott would agree that if you don’t like the HOA you bought into, you should work to fix it. His contention is that you should have known from the start whether or not you were going to like it, and that people who act like HOA is this immutable unchangeable irresistible thing are talking out of their asses.

        M.A.: “bububub-bubububububu!” Yes, see, what you’ve got is not how it’s supposed to work. You got a problem and you need to get yourself a lawyer. The fact that someone can punch me in the face doesn’t mean that laws against battery are invalid.Report

        • Jason Kuznicki in reply to DensityDuck says:

          awww somebody’s butthurt

          About what? Not sure I understand the implication here.

          I’m pretty sure that Scott would agree that if you don’t like the HOA you bought into, you should work to fix it.

          Sounds to me like he’s saying, “sucks to be you, chump.” Not like he’s interested in discussing reform at all; the purchase would appear to make all attempts at reform hypocritical on his view. Were this not the case, he surely would have evinced a tiny bit of sympathy somewhere. No?Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            What he’s saying is that the prospective owner is provided with the HOA rules up front, and had all the time they needed to read through those rules and understand them. If they failed to understand what they were buying even after all that, it’s on them. If you insist on interpreting that as “sucks to be you, chump”, well, sucks to be you then.

            M.A. has a case against the specific HOA that they’re in, and if it’s truly as awful as they describe then it’s a good one. Like, “win in court” good. The intent of an HOA is not to turn a few people into de facto landlords.Report

      • Put some aloe on that butt, Kuznicki!Report

    • M.A. in reply to Scott says:

      Advocates often maintain that people choose to live in HOAs, but some note that “choice” is misleading. HOAs have been mandated by municipalities for decades either directly or indirectly. This is often accomplished by conditioning plat or other approval on the creation of amenities such as roads, open areas, greenbelts, retention basins, etc. and an obligation to maintain them. In towns where such regulations exist, people who wish to purchase a home often have no choice but to live in an HOA. Whether non-HOA neighborhoods that were built in the last several decades exist depends on the location. The choice for most buyers seeking a newer home is only which HOA they will join.


      Now stop trolling.Report

      • A Teacher in reply to M.A. says:

        A little misleading. In Oakland County Michigan, my wife and looked at many houses in our area and about half were in HOA’s and half were not. Honestly the ones that ~were~ in HOA’s were better maintained with nicer looking neighborhoods but that may not be totally relevant.

        Either way, we had choice. Just sayin’.Report

  7. b-psycho says:

    “This issue is not any different than the national debate about taxes going on today across America. The answer for the taxpayer is to participate; vote and call your elected representatives with your concerns.

    …and get ignored because your concerns don’t match theirs, and you don’t have enough money and connections to change that.

    At least the HOA avoidance tactic is simple: don’t move into an HOA neighborhood.Report

    • M.A. in reply to b-psycho says:

      At least the HOA avoidance tactic is simple: don’t move into an HOA neighborhood.

      Simple in theory, difficult in practice. They’re breeding like rabbits, especially in any new construction area.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to M.A. says:

        Yeah, but you’d have to be a grade A moron to think you’re getting your money’s worth on most new construction. When it has to compete — at the same price range, with 1930’s construction… you really think they ain’t cuttin’ corners?
        And it has to compete with the 1930’s construction, because people can’t afford to pay more than their paychecks. And those haven’t been getting bigger.Report

  8. Roger says:

    Nice job Wardsmith. I think you really hit a nerve with this post.Report

  9. Ryan Noonan says:

    I really liked this post, Ward. Thanks for writing it.Report

  10. Kazzy says:

    I’ve never lived under an HOA. We once rented a condo, which may or may not have had a bunch of rules, but we never seemed to run up against them. It was a college buddy and I the first year after college. I think the worst that happened was we went away for a night and forgot to turn our alarms off, which proceeded to beep for hours starting at 6AM. We got a terse note under our door and made sure not to do it again. End of story. And that likely would have happened regardless of if there were rules… it was more of a general law of life sort of thing.

    In some ways, this might disqualify me from really commenting. Though not quite in the manner with which he has expressed it, I sort of agree with Scott: if HOAs are a problem for you, avoid living in one; if you can’t avoid living in one or already live in one that has gotten considerably worse since you moved in, work to make things better through the mechanisms in place.Report

  11. M.A. says:

    I’ve done some looking and it appears in most states, the threshold to start an HOA in your neighborhood is only 50%+1 vote of the neighborhood. So, your neighbors CAN start one up without your approval, against your vote, and then subsequently enact all the restrictions they want upon you.

    As an “incorporated entity” they are even immune to grandfather clauses, so they could rule some architectural feature on your property an “eyesore” and demand you change it even if it preexists the passing of the rule or the creation of the HOA.

    I find that frightening.Report

    • wardsmith in reply to M.A. says:

      Well, you could always move to New London.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to M.A. says:

      “So, your neighbors CAN start one up without your approval, against your vote, and then subsequently enact all the restrictions they want upon you.”

      This is what democracy looks like.Report

      • Scott in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Sounds like the democratic administration I’ve been living under the past few years. I guess I’d better move to Somalia.Report

        • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Scott says:

          Well, you could always try campaigning against the guy. But that would be logically inconsistent with the advice you so freely dish out to HOA residents.Report

          • There is also the opportunity to get 50% +1 of the homeowners to NOT vote for the change.

            I also think that you need an affirmative 50%+1 rather than 50% +1 of Votes Cast. IE if you can get 50% of your Home Owners to not show up at all to vote, then of the 50% that do, only one has to vote no and you wont’ have an HOA.Report

            • M.A. in reply to A Teacher says:

              One vote, one man… one time. Sounds lovely and fascist, which is about what HOAs are.Report

              • M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

                More to the point: Say you live in a subdivision with 50 houses. A group of them (say about 30 or so) decide they want to start an HOA. The other 20 don’t want an HOA; in fact, 5 of them are the ones who do things that the pathetic, boring conformist yuppie-types who want an HOA dislike. Things like this, or setting up christmas decorations that draw people to drive by doing the yearly city tour of impressive christmas displays.

                For a bonus irony, look at the way the HOA fascists fudged the math in that particular link. 19 votes for white lights only, 14 for colored lights, 5 for “colored blinking”… so they called it a 19-14 loss for colored lights and a 19-5 loss for “colored blinking” lights.

                What’s your answer? All 30 of them will show up to vote. One many, one vote, one time, and then you’re under the thumb of an HOA that you never agreed to – not when you bought the house, not when the vote was cast. And they can change the rules, and issue fines, and insist you make changes in your yard because of “violations” of the new rules even though your front-yard lily pond or your chosen shade of paint were there long before these pathetic yuppie fools decided they “needed to form an HOA” to harass their neighbors with.

                I’ll wait while you come up with a reply.Report

              • A Teacher in reply to M.A. says:

                First I’m not a lawyer. So maybe I’m wrong on some of these issues.

                But going first to your shade tree/ color of paint issue: You do have ~I Believe~ a recourse through the courts. If the association changes the rules, then they should compensate you for getting in compliance with the rules. I think a good case can be made in small claims that you’d be happy to recolor the house to match what the majority wishes at the shared expense of the majority.

                I also agree that there’s something crappy about the rules for holiday light colors in the way that was handled. But again there’s recourse: You can call for a vote on a single issue with a yay/ nay. “Do we want colored lights or white only?” That should help clear up where those 4 blinking votes would fall. There’s no reason that it has to be from a three way vote. You could also tie up the thing and challenge the HOA to go to court over your colored lights saying “Hey, there wasn’t a majority opinion and you’re welcome to pay the court costs to prove it”. Will the HOA really spend it’s money that way? And if so what’s stopping you from printing up a few fliers/ sending out a few emails before the next board election about this?

                Look, I can’t defend people who are asshats. I can’t defend abuses of power.

                What I ~can~ defend is the value of my house. What I ~can~ defend is that there wre houses we did not consider buying because of the house next to it or across the street. There were houses that did not get an offer from us ~BEFORE~ the housing crash strictly because we did not want to live next to an eyesore. We did not want to raise kids that would need a tetanus booster just to go out side because of how the neighborhood was maintained.

                Yes it sucks when it oversteps. We almost didn’t buy the house we love that we’re in now because the HOA had rules about how many pets. Specifically we were limited to 2 and we own 4. We called the association president, and in 12 hours we had 4 votes to give us a variance and allow for the 4 cats. Should we have to ask to have our own pets? Maybe not. But as I said, do you want to live next to ( ?

                Or rather would you want to try to ~SELL~ your property near that?Report

              • Kimmi in reply to A Teacher says:

                or, you know, you could just spend enough on your housing that total rejects can’t afford to live there.Report

              • M.A. in reply to A Teacher says:

                But as I said, do you want to live next to ( ?

                Say it with me: Municipal hoarding ordinance. Why does an HOA have any business being more restrictive than the local law?Report

              • A Teacher in reply to M.A. says:

                Because sometimes local law isn’t enough to protect property values.

                Imagine the conversation:
                Me: Look I’m having a hard time selling my house because of all the dog poop in your back yard. It’d be great if you could clean it up just a little more often.
                Him: So? There’s no law about how often I clean it up.
                Me: Yeah well, there is a health ordinance.
                Him: Yeah? Well you call the cops again. The other side called them last year but unless the poop’s seeping over a property line I’m allowed all the fertilizer I want.
                He: Well, okay so I can’t call the cops but it’d be nice to be able to sell for at least what we paid. You sure you can’t keep it a little more clean for a week or two?
                Him: Fish You.

                Local laws are not about property value as they are about safety and health.

                HOA’s are about protecting property value. Some are insanely overreaching. Some are horribly draconian. Some are just plain ~WRONG~.

                But a few negative anecdotes does not invalidate the concept.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to M.A. says:

                BULL FUCKING SHIT.
                I have a 3 chicken property.
                Most Squirrel Hill houses have 0 chickens allowed. (by design of the builders/people who cut the lots near the synagogues. sometimes only 10 feet below a 1 chicken lot)

                This is For PROPERTY VALUES. There is little health consequence for letting people raise chickens, particularly if it’s just a couple.Report

              • M.A. in reply to A Teacher says:

                We called the association president, and in 12 hours we had 4 votes to give us a variance and allow for the 4 cats.

                Sounds great. When they publish contact information. Now try to do that through a group of brainless, soulless “maintenance company” automatons who also take all the “seats” until the builders leave your subdivision.Report

  12. damon says:

    I’d expect that most HOAs were like mine: fairly “go along”.

    I don’t have a problem, in general, with HOAs because, hey, you agree to it up front. I actually joined my HOA and was VP for a number of years. I ended up joining to basically ensure they didn’t do anything stupid. At the time, there was some discussion of banning certain dog breeds which really pissed me off. Since I’ve trained dogs, I asked to address the board and spoke about anyone could train any dog to be mean. (The community was concerned about someone having a few pit bulls and was in somewhat of a tizzy)
    Anyway, I ended up on the board and the hardest things we dealt with was an owner accidently building a fence encroaching on community property by about 1 sq food and how we would deal with this. Our lawyer said that we’d have to “lease” him the land for 1 dollar for 99 years to cover our asses. Then there was the beaver in the retention pond….minor stuff.
    The only real issues we had were the occasional non payment of dues and the occasional vandalism by area kids. Our architectural committee (one guy) was fairly agreeable and no one really had any problems doing pretty much what they wanted in their yards. Our covenants went ten pages I think.Report

    • wardsmith in reply to damon says:

      Thanks Damon, you hit some key points I wanted made but might not have been explicit about in the OP. The title: Consensus Facit Legem means Consent Makes the Law. I think it all starts with consent. We live in a representative democracy but mostly have ourselves to blame when free-riders and special interests take it over. By being active as you were with your HOA, we have a voice in the process and can influence it in good directions. The beauty of the HOA is that it is small enough that one voice (or even one vote) has meaning. You got involved, you became a VP and helped rather than hindered the process. It cost you some time, you might have made some friends and what would you have done otherwise, watch TV? By being involved in the process you could keep them from making (and coercively enforcing) poor regulations. When civics classes point to good governance, hopefully this is what they point to, as occasionally happened 400 yrs ago in this country, where I’m sure the issues were simple, like farmer Brown’s horse went wandering through farmer Jones’ garden and made a mess. The folks got together and voted that farmer Brown had to build a paddock.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to wardsmith says:

        And the problem with the HOA is that it’s too small to have unbiased decisions. Arguments become broohahas between people, and suddenly nobody wants to back down.Report