Continued national HOA problems and the failure of the media

Advocates are all aware of the silence by the media to deal with the serious issue of why we are having all these problems with homeowner associations, HOAs, across the country. The media, when it does speak up, usually talks of isolated local incidents of “this problem with that HOA”, and with a “isn’t that terrible” approach, period.   Such presentations may evoke shock and surprise from their reader/viewers, but are quickly dismissed with a, “Hey hon, what’s for supper?”  This type of news coverage, especially those conducted by investigative reporters, has failed to have any impact on government officials and public interest firms.

Several reporters have made an attempt to deal with solutions to these problems, echoing the all too familiar Community Associations Institute (CAI) ploy, “These homeowners do not come up with any solutions to their problems”. And the media has failed miserably to ask the obvious logical first question needed to be answered:  “What are the causes of these problems?”  

Advocates know all too well that CAI leads reporters in the direction of, “if only those homeowners would be more involved in their HOA and follow the rules that they agreed to” as the cause and solution to HOA problems.  Reporters repeatedly failed to ask about the adhesion contract nature of CC&Rs, the biased state laws in favor of HOAs that strip homeowner rights, and the failure to disclose, especially from state agencies and sales organizations, what real living in HOAs is like.

Homeowners with legitimate complaints are trivialized by CAI, and in the media when it echoes the CAI propaganda, with comments of  “a handful of trouble makers” (it used to be “malcontents”).  The media has failed to investigate and report on the well documented legal authorities supporting homeowner complaints, as witnessed in the NJ Supreme Court Twin River case. And to look beyond the isolated incidents are acknowledge the extent of the factual basis of the problems across the country, realizing that these complaints are very similar and are not isolated events.

The media has remained all too silent on asking these causation questions and looking for answers, including the recognized national leaders who have already conducted stories or interviews on HOA problems, some of which include  ABC’s 20/20, The NY Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and the LA Times. The media has failed in its responsibility to the people who, in a democratic country, must be fully informed and educated about serious issues.  HOA abuse is serious.  There are an estimated 18.8% of the population living in HOAs today, a percentage large than either the Black or Hispanic minority groups (based on CAI and Census Bureau data). 

New York Times Best Selling Author Stephen Hayes, in his recently released book on VP Cheney, writes about a NY Times executive editor who wrote Cheney in an effort to get the VP to talk to reporters.  This quote applies to HOA problems as well, and the need to get answers to the causes of the problems that continue to exist for over 40 years. (CAI was formed in 1973 to deal with problems resulting from the mass marketing of planned communities as set forth in the 1964 ULI publication, The Holmes Association Handbook).  Hayes writes of the editor’s email,

“Our job is not to ‘support’ our leaders, not to buy in to any administration . . . but our job should be to figure out what they believe and why, and how all of that shapes the policies they make.  We are obliged to get past the labels and slogans.” 

Some advocates have cautioned me about antagonizing the media, least they turn against us or refuse to conduct further stories.  I answered with, “I do not believe that the national media leadership has fallen subject to money influences and threats, as portrayed in the movie about the tobacco revelations on nicotine, The Insider, and has lost its moral and ethical compass.  As portrayed in the above quote, the media leadership fully understands the course it must set and maintain for itself. 

It’s past the time for the media to investigate the causes of these HOA problems, and the role played by the national lobbying organization, CAI.  Only by means of a public discourse, lead by the media, will the causes of these endless homeowner association problems be uncovered.

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Published in: on July 30, 2007 at 7:25 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] an earlier Commentary, “Continued national HOA problems and the failure of the media”, July 2007, contained a quote from a NY Times Executive Editor who spoke of the role of the […]


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