By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Today’s blog offers continuing commentary on Community Association Institute’s vision for common interest housing development in the U.S. Last week’s blog focused on the fact that CAI thinks that homeowners and residents in Association Governed Developments are ill-equipped to take care of their properties and their community, and therefore, they should hire professional managers as President-CEOs.
This week, let’s look at how CAI envisions working with Developers to socially engineer every neighborhood in America.
CAI’s “Enlightened” vision for American Communities
CAI Must Strengthen Alliances With Developers.
Ideally, CAI should work with both developers and their attorneys to improve governing documents before they’re filed.
Exactly how that might happen requires further discussion and outreach, but certainly liaison with NAHB, the ABA and other organizations is an obvious first step. Part of that discussion centers on engaging developers much earlier in the process, i.e., before turnover. It requires establishing values and principles (the culture) in the documents—enlightened documents—before development begins. Celebration, Florida, is a good example of the benefit of establishing the values first, which then became the foundation for the documents, architecture and programs.
Hold on a minute. Celebration, Florida? This is what CAI holds up as a shining example of what a “community” should be?
For readers who may be unfamiliar with Celebration, here’s a story published in 2010 by The Guardian:
Disney invented Celebration as an ideal American small town. But recession, a brutal murder and a suicide have killed the magic
The town centre is steeped in that great Disney aesthetic: the art of deception.
Walt Disney always had a dream to build a model town. It was part of his master plan to create a new magic kingdom in Florida.
Less well known is that it was all part of his messianic desire for total control. Disney managed to persuade the local authorities to grant him absolute power within the confines of his new empire, including the ability to raise taxes and run the roads and public amenities. In effect, he had created a private Disney government.
Rick Foglesong, a Disney watcher of long standing at Rollins College in Florida, calls it “the Vatican with mouse ears”. “Walt Disney was an authoritarian. Yes he was an artist, but he was also a control freak. People tend to see the Disney creativity, they often miss the centralised control that lies behind it.” Disney died in 1966, before his aspiration of creating his own community could be realised. But when Celebration finally came into being it bore many of his hallmarks.
By the way, here’s the report of the murder and subsequent suicide following a violent police shoot-out in Celebration.
To the extent that some people want to live in a community about as authentic as cubic zirconia or pleather, and pretend snow, more power to them. But is this what most Americans want? Should we be striving to make all of our neighborhoods the stuff of Disney fantasy, with authoritarian governance?
Handing over more control to CAI
More importantly, do we really want CAI – an industry trade group representing the interests of community association managers and attorneys, and “homeowner volunteer leaders” (board members), but not homeowners at large, and certainly not home buying consumers or tenants – advising developers on how to “improve” governing documents?
Remember, CAI has been responsible for “improving” statutes governing homeowners, condominium, and cooperative associations for several decades. These are the people who have pushed the enactment of state laws allowing Associations boards to fine their neighbors – often over minor or trumped up offenses. These are the people who dreamed up the priority of payment scam that entangles fines for alleged violations with mandatory monthly assessment payments.
CAI operatives are the very same people who insist that an Association Governed entity must have the absolute right to foreclose on its lien, to collect rent from or evict your tenant, and to engage in collection tactics without adherence to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
And it is CAI, through its state legislative action committees, that has quietly enacted or amended state laws reducing the membership voting requirement for termination of condominium from 100% to 75 or 80% approval, thereby enabling “eminent domain for condos,” according to many consumer focused legal experts.
CAI is the relentless lobbying force resisting any and all form of regulation over its lucrative industry.
Let’s face it – Developers and local governments already insert dozens of conditions into those governing documents, and most of them do not benefit consumers or taxpaying constituents. The goal of a developer is to minimize liability for construction defects, and to keep its contribution to the reserve and operation funds for the association as low as possible, all with the purpose of maximizing profits.
By the way, the local government also inserts provisions that allow it to defer its responsibility for maintaining common infrastructure or neighborhood security, as well as those that mandate owners to uphold arbitrary requirements such as the number of trees that must be planted on each lot.
The odds of CAI “enlightening” developers to fully fund reserves during construction are rather slim, as are the odds of helping developers see the wisdom in relinquishing total control, especially since CAI just endorsed the authoritarian Disney-controlled common interst community of Celebration. Neither of those changes is likely to occur without a fully enforced state mandate and/or strong public demand for accountability.
However, just imagine how much more damage could be done if we allowed CAI to write Articles of Incorporation, Declarations of Covenants, Conditions, & Restrictions (CC&Rs) for Associations, and ByLaws setting policies such as election and voting standards and procedures! If successful in this endeavor, CAI would no longer have to work so hard on enacting enabling legislation at the state level. Instead they could simply create new “community” governing documents from scratch, inserting all kinds of Association and Management powers and special rights, to serve their own interests.
You can bet on one thing that won’t be written into governing documents – greater accountability for CAI certified managers and attorneys. That’s made abundantly clear in this statement:
This panel would like to see requirements that only attorneys qualified in CIC [Common Interest Community] law are allowed to draft documents for new communities. Furthermore, developers and prospective attorneys would be required to sign an affidavit attesting to the attorney’s knowledge of CICs and CIC law.
More job security for CAI attorneys, and almost unlimited authority to create American Communities in their own image. What could go wrong?
Community Next: 2020 and Beyond The Association Governance Model Panel Report