Sunday, March 7, 2010

Condos in Crisis

 Personal Rights or a Community's Economic Survival--Which comes First?

             What follows are comments and a post forwarded to me by Fred Fischer, followed by my response to that post.  The post criticizes private community associations as “un-democratic” and illustrates the growing disconnect between a zealous concern over governance and understanding the basic economic survival issues of community associations. While we understand the arguments, practicality gets our vote because if they don’t survive who is going to care how community associations are governed?

            There is no doubt that privatization (of public property) has increased in the US over the years, but is it constitutional and is it in the best interest of consumers/community? Personally I have little objection to privatization when it applies to some services like refuge collection, snow removal etc. but I do when it applies to housing and other (personal or behavioral) issues.

            Fred then quotes from an article on the growing privatization of communities, and the asserted loss of individual freedom, written by Mr. George K. Staropoli that I have excerpted here:

“This new nation of mini-governments populating the landscape are described by Robert Ely. . . as representing ideas alien to democracy: ‘It is not the American ideal.  It is benevolent, well-wishing feudalism, which desires the happiness of the people, but in such a way as to please the authorities.’…An authoritarian form of government is contrary to the expectations of Americans who have lived all their lives under a democratic government that places the rights and liberties first and foremost.  (Another author) agrees: ‘Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of these communities is that they are controlled by private, democratic governments (community associations) that wield the kind of control over people’s personal lives and tastes that, heretofore, most Americans would never have accepted from any government.  It is, and still remains, the oppressive, authoritarian HOA government based on corporate law rather than on constitutional law that is the root of all evil.“
My Response:

          Thanks for forwarding that interesting piece. My immediate reaction however, is "So what?" Whether they are "democratic," “authoritarian,” or something else; whether they should have been built or not; the fact is that tens of thousands of communities governed by homeowners associations were built over the past 40 years and their authority to govern was established by statute and contract with the approval of all sorts of government agencies, and notwithstanding their imperfections, they can not be easily undone regardless of how much some may dislike them...

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