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The Bill of Rights Primer: A Citizen's Guidebook to the American Bill of Rights by Akhil Reed Amar This uncluttered and well-organized text is perfect for those who want to study up on the Bill of Rights. Learn more | See related books
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This well-written and thoroughly researched book outlines the history of CID's (Common Interest Developments, often known as Homeowner's Associations in one of their various forms) and shows why they exist and continue to proliferate. Touted as a selling point to potential buyers by realtors and builders, CID's exist--as McKenzie cogently points out--primarily as a means for developers to mitigate the rising cost of property by squeezing more dwellings on to less land and bypassing local zoning restrictions and ordinances. The author not only examines the resultant effect upon the individual homeowner, but the long-term sociological and political ramifications as well. Like many who buy a home located in a CID, I was largely naive regarding the freedoms ceded by the purchaser as well as the broad and unfettered authority wielded by the "association". "Privatopia" contains some of the horror stories experienced within the CID scenario. Some of the issues causing disputes are so trivial as to be laughable, except for the severe penalties incurred by violators, including huge fines and legal fees, or even loss of one's home in certain situations. (My own "horror" story includes being assessed thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees over an orginal debt of $500.00 in association dues) As McKenzie points out, all too often the amateurs (who are typically homeowners within the subdivision) comprising the "board of directors" that administers the bylaws of the association, take a rigid stance when it comes to enforcement, or--worse yet--simply turn everything over to professional management companies and/or lawyers. Ostensibly, of course, the reason for all of the bylaws is the maintenance of property values.Read more ›
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Professor McKenzie was one of the first to see the dangers of the new trend of private contractual pseudo-government in common-interest developments (a/k/a mandatory homeowners' associations) and his treatment remains one of the most thoughtful available. Especially useful is his history of the development of the industry's powerhouse trade organization, the Community Associations Institute. CAI started long ago as a balanced entity serving the interests of homeowners as well as others, but it has turned into a lobbying arm for professionals who make their livings off of mandatory assessments and the associated legal machinery of collection and foreclosure. In the county in which Houston, Texas, is located, over 11,000 foreclosure lawsuits have been filed by mandatory homeowners associations in recent years, the vast majority of them since 1995, when Texas law was amended (with the help of the CAI lobby) to favor the rights of mandatory homeowners associations. A standard pattern is the experience cited by a reviewer below: a few hundred dollars in assessments or fines in dispute, and thousands of dollars of legal fees -- all secured by a homestead. McKenzie's book is a good tool to use in trying to understand the trend and the alternatives.
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This is a fascinating book for a narrowly targeted audience. If you are engaged in any way in the governance of a homeowner association either as property manager, lawyer, or board member, this book is most interesting.
The author outlines in detail the history of the advent of common interest developments (CIDs) in the U.S. He explains why this form of residential ownership has taken on like wildfire in the past four decades. And, what this imply for society at large and local governments in particular.
The author indicates that there were only 500 homeowner associations in 1964; but, there were more than 150,000 in 1992. Nowadays, a significant percentage of the middle class and upper middle class lives in such associations. The factors that drove this explosion in the number of CIDs are:
1) Land economics. Developers were able to significantly increase the unit and population density within their housing developments. This increased the supply of private housing, and lowered their costs, making them affordable to a much larger segment of the population.
2) Lower municipalities costs. As CIDs maintain a good part of their infrastructure and also finance some of their municipal services, municipalities' revenues went up due to rising property taxes. But, their costs did not grow as much.
The author makes an eloquent case that the local governments' acceptance of CIDs to boost their revenues more than their cost was a Faustian deal. This is because the middle and upper middle class is becoming increasingly disenfranchised from the remainder of the community.Read more ›
"Privatopia" is the definitive history of common interest development-based housing in the United States, chronicling its rise from a modest number of exclusive developments at the turn of the century to what has become the fastest growing form of housing development and local government in the U.S. today, serving as the new town hall for some 40 million Americans in 200,000+ communities. Privatopia puts in perspective the rapid growth of mass market CID housing, beginning as "homes associations" in the 1960s under the tutelage of the Federal Housing Administration and the Urban Land Institute. A professor of political science, McKenzie ably outlines the political and economic factors behind this trend and explains how policies adopted by state legislatures and local governments have quietly fostered the privatization of residential government into a multi-billion dollar industry. This book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand this quiet revolution in local government and a controversial subject that could be tomorrow's headlines.
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