CIC Info Bytes


CIC Info Bytes are frequent, succinct updates that provide educational and engagement opportunities to help your community thrive!  Subscribe to receive CIC Info Bytes updates by emailJoin us on Reddit at r/HOA.

ISSUE # 79

CIC Info Bytes 11/23/23

CIC Info Bytes are frequent, succinct updates providing educational and engagement opportunities that help your community thrive!  Please forward and share this newsletter with your peers, neighbors and colleagues so they can connect and joinOur goal is to curate content that provides a robust basis for contextual understanding to support practical takeaways for you and your association.  Please consider following us on Twitter and Reddit. 

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a cornucopia and a turkey dinner in between a house and a high-rise condominium

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CIC Info Bytes Newsletter 11/23/23 - PRINT EDITION

WHY Community Associations?💰

It’s all about money: allocated interest, maintenance, repair, replacement, annual budgets, reserves, fines, interest, liens, and foreclosure.


Budget Ratification and Reserve Study Compliance


Greenlandic proverb: “If you hush up a ghost, it grows bigger.”

“I’m a ‘yes, but’ guy in a ‘gee whiz’ world.” Gary Shilling


January 1, 2024

In 2021 Congress enacted the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) in a broad effort to tighten money-laundering laws. The CTA assigns the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) with identifying shell companies used for illegal transactions and creating a registry of businesses with less than $5 million in annual sales and fewer than 20 employees.

That describes most small businesses in the country. In a Nov. 16 letter to Congressional leaders, 69 groups representing millions of small business owners say neither they nor FinCEN are ready for the law to go live in January 2024…

The Coming Deluge for Small Business — Editorial Board | WSJ | November 19, 2023

Trials and Tribulations of a Volunteer Director - Part IV


Homeowners are part of a three legged stool of accountability in community associations.  The balancing act falls apart without them.  What are the legs?

Constituents -- in every form of government -- must  take responsibility to do their part to create positive, meaningful change that works for them.  With the exception of intentional acts designed to circumvent the law or governing documents and/or to undermine the power of the members, blaming elected volunteer leaders for failures is a shell game.  The Board is not, in many circumstances, the bad guy.

It's reasonable for the governed to know their rights.  To understand this, look no further than your local city or country government.  When do things change?  When someone starts paying attention and takes action.  Can we expect everyone to know their rights or to take action?  Absolutely not!  A majority of adults are unwilling to sign a petition or answer a 2 minute survey.  

Surveys like this one show that community associations are generally unwilling to spend money on education and, more to the point, homeowners and volunteers are often unwilling to invest their time and energy being educated.  How involved are you in your local government affairs?  Do you attend city and county council meetings?   Do you provide public comment?  Do you write emails and letters to your elected leaders?

With the exception of Montgomery County, Maryland and an attestation OR education requirement in Florida, states across the country have NO requirement for community association volunteer leaders to receive education.  For those who choose to take the time to become educated, their rewards are: 1) self-enlightenment and 2) the ability to share their learnings and 3) to benefit their community.  For the most part, nobody cares if someone earns a ‘badge’ by taking an unregulated education course.  A statutory requirement is the only way to transform education into something more than a novelty.

Community associations are never going to have a tax code level statutory requirement that envisages every possible scenario and that closes every loophole.  Furthermore, some of the most fundamental challenges faced by community associations have nothing to do with gaps in the statutes and everything to do with failure – by professionals and homeowners alike – to adhere to requirements that already exist.

Government citizens in many countries have the same powers as homeowner members in community associations: to elect and recall their elected officials.  If a majority of the voting members of the city, country, state -- or in this case community association -- are unwilling to make a change, that's as far as it goes except when there’s an actionable case correcting a violation of the governing documents or statutes. 

Engaged homeowner members are the beginning and the end.  Members can create solutions in much the same way as they can promulgate challenges.  Some homeowners -- intentionally or not -- allow themselves to become victims.  Don’t allow yourself to be a victim.  Be the change you want to see!  Get help and read What to Do: When Things Go Askew.

The breadth and volume of concerns brought to DBPR is overwhelming and DBPR’s authority is strictly limited by statute.  The Sun Sentinel reviewed complaints dating back to 2007 and found that DBPR receives roughly 3,100 a year and found that complaints can be complicated, rambling, and lacking basic information. Getting to the essence of one complaint can take days or weeks.

The vast majority of condo owners who ask DBPR for help don’t get it. From 2007 to 2023, DBPR rejected or dismissed more than three-fourths of complaints. Only 16 percent of the cases in that time resulted in enforcement.

The number of condo owners DBPR refused to help has sharply increased over the past 10 years, as the agency rejected a growing number of complaints on the grounds that it lacked the legal authority to intervene.

Even cases that do fall under DBPR’s powers aren’t handled efficiently. The Sun Sentinel analysis shows routine cases — a denial of financial records, for example — can take a year to resolve.

Florida law sets up DBPR and its condo ombudsman’s office as the condo authority, but the state has understaffed and underfunded the agency. The ombudsman position has been vacant since March.

Condo Wars: State regulators a dead end for desperate condo owners — David Fleshler | Sun Sentinel | November 21, 2023

Condo Wars: State regulators a dead end for desperate condo owners
Condo Wars: State regulators a dead end for desperate condo owners

Fraud & Embezzlement Explosion

Federal prosecutors say a southern Utah woman pleaded guilty to abusing her former position as a homeowners association (HOA) treasurer to embezzle about $232,000.

Sharon Lee Ann, 66, of Hurricane, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and filing a false statement on her tax return, the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Utah said in a statement. Her sentencing date has yet to be scheduled.

According to prosecutors, Gordon diverted thousands of dollars from four Lava Bluff HOA accounts into her own personal accounts between 2016 and March 2022.

In the scheme, Gordon would deposit checks representing HOA fees into her personal accounts, and write checks to herself and her boyfriend. She’d also write checks to casinos from HOA accounts, and withdraw cash from them, prosecutors said

Former Utah HOA treasurer pleads guilty to embezzling $232,000 — Jonathon Sharp | ABC4 | November 02, 2023


City officials announced on Thursday that they have taken out warrants against Bettye Ligon and Lyndon Baldwin Sr., the president and treasurer of Camelot Condominiums Homeowners Association.

According to authorities, Ligon and Baldwin are accused of receiving nearly $2 million in insurance money after two dozen units were damaged in a fire in 2020.  Instead of cutting checks to fire victims, police say they kept the money…

HOA president turns herself in; leaders host ‘Forum at Camelot’ to discuss solutions for victims — Mary Alice Royse Ginther | WSB-TV | November 05, 2023


Former property manager arrested for embezzling $40,000.

According to Gulf Shores Police, on March 24, 2023, the department received a report of embezzlement and misuse of funds involving the Craft Farms Property Owners Association.

Detectives from the Gulf Shores Police Department Criminal Investigative Division began reviewing the property owners association's financial records for January 2019 through May 2022.

While reviewing the expenditures that occurred over the three year period, inconsistencies were identified which led investigators to suspect that association funds were being diverted for personal use…

Craft Farms Property Owners Association manager charged with theft of property first degree — Keith Lane | WEAR | November 04, 2023


South Fulton police accused Bettye Ligon and Lyndon Baldwin Sr. of stealing $1.5 million during their terms on the Camelot condominium HOA board.

Authorities say Ligon and Baldwin Sr. kept insurance funds after multiple fires in the privately owned complex three years ago. 

“When people hear what’s going on here, it’s just so outrageous. They just think it can’t be true. There’s more to the story, but there isn’t.”

South Fulton condominium complex investigation uncovers theft among HOA board members  — DorMiya Vance | WABE | November 15, 2023

Warrants out for the arrest of HOA president, treasurer at troubled South Fulton condo complex — WSB-TV | November 02, 2023


In lawsuits filed against the association and in interviews with The Real Deal, unit owners claim association leadership illegally imposed $3 million in special assessments, but failed to make promised and required repairs. Unit owners suspect some former and current association leaders of a self-enrichment scheme, as many of the 17 buildings remain in poor condition, residents say. 

“Does this look like $3 million has been spent?” unit owner Kareen LeCorps said, gesturing toward some of the pastel-colored low-rise buildings. 

Star Lakes is not an anomaly. Across South Florida, residents who live in association-governed communities have been sounding the alarm about allegedly nefarious dealings by board members. This has intensified following the uncovering of major fraud at the Hammocks, the largest homeowners association in South Florida…

Inside Alleged Fraud at Miami-Dade’s Star Lakes Condos — Lidia Dinkova and Katherine Kallergis | TheRealDeal | October 12, 2023


A former Dedham tax official has been sentenced to three years’ probation for defrauding a Woonsocket condominium association out of almost $50,000 to pay for personal expenses and gambling trips to Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville.

Cheryl S. Sullivan, 69, a former chairperson of the Dedham Board of Tax Assessors, had no prior criminal record and federal prosecutors agreed to the sentence handed down Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Providence, according to court records.

The property manager, real estate broker and tax preparer pleaded guilty in June to wire fraud and using a River Island Condominium Association credit card during trips to Plainridge between January and November of 2019…

Ex-Dedham official gets probation for Plainridge Casino jaunts funded by fraud — David Linton | The Sun Chronicle | September 29, 2023

The Rhode Island Attorney General’s office has launched a criminal  investigation into the North Providence property management company Vista Management Inc. (a subsidiary of Massachusetts-based Franklin Square Management) for allowing poor living conditions that led to the city condemning a 56-unit condominium complex and the 24-hour eviction notice sent to its residents… 

Neronha opens criminal probe of condemned condos’ management company — Christopher Allen | Providence Business News | October 27, 2023

Air Force Master Sergeant Christopher Banda should have been protected by a federal law preventing foreclosure on his home. However, lawyers in the case submitted a form incorrectly stating Banda was not active duty.

“I didn't know this, I didn't know an HOA can take your house, put it up for sale and actually sell it. I didn't know this," Banda said.

He says he set up automatic payments to the HOA while he was deployed, but a mix-up with his bank caused those payments to stop going out and he wasn't notified.

When Banda fell behind on his HOA payments, the Wolf Creek Homeowners Association got permission from a court to foreclose on his house…

Servicemember gets house back after almost losing it because of unpaid HOA fees — Jaie Avila | WOAI | November 09, 2023

Stop Fighting, Start Reforming

The WaPo story below misrepresents how management companies work: they’re third parties who work at the behest of the Board.  Further, the article talks about retaining legal help to file suit without mentioning dispute resolution pathways available in 20% of states across the US.

Everything you need to know about fighting your HOA — The Cool Down


How to do battle with your homeowners association — Jandra Sutton | Washington Post | November 16, 2023

Law firm revenue grew by 4.6% during the first nine months of 2023, while net income grew by 2.7%, according to data from Wells Fargo’s Legal Specialty Group. Its survey of more than 120 firms included 65 of the 100 highest-grossing U.S. firms.

The revenue increases were driven by "some of the highest growth in billing rates we’ve seen," Wells Fargo said. Rates grew by 7.9% overall for the surveyed firms.

Higher billing rates drive US law firm growth as bonus season looms — David Thomas and Sara Merken | Reuters | November 16, 2023

The first step in challenging any homeowners association should be to carefully review their governing documents in the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, Restrictions, and Easements (CC&Rs) to determine if there are any pre-established stipulations regarding disputes between homeowners and their HOAs. There may be a specific clause that addresses who will be responsible for paying attorney fees. Georgia law upholds the Declaration of a homeowners association as a binding contract that cannot be altered by a trial court award unless prohibited by a statute according to the precedent set in Summit at Scarborough Homeowners Association v. Williams, 807 S.E.2d 63 (Ga. Ct. App. 2017). 

If the declaration of covenants does not contain any clauses that address recovering attorney fees then the next authority to observe is the state of Georgia and its laws governing HOA disputes. Unfortunately, there is no statutory provision or constitutional requirement that mandates attorney’s fees be awarded to the winning plaintiff in any case in the state of Georgia—including disputes with an HOA.

Attorney fees in Georgia are only recoverable when authorized in a contract such as the CC&R or when they meet exceptional circumstances under O.C.G.A. § 9-11-68 and § 9-15-14 for bringing a substantially frivolous claim or unjustifiable defense. Requests made under this code must be made within 45 days of receiving the final disposition of the action. Rather than relying on these limited statutes, it is far better to establish the nature of disputes and recover legal fees through the CC&Rs…

Recovering Legal Fees After Suing a Georgia Homeowners Association — David Ludwig | Dunlap, Bennett & Ludwig | November 18, 2022

In January 2019, part of a grassy area covering the channel between rows of homes in the Coyote Village condo complex off Imperial Highway caved in overnight, taking sidewalks and some large pine trees with it. The sinkhole left was 20 feet wide and up to 100 feet long.

Then in March, with the initial 4-year-old sinkhole still open to the north, another section of the greenway over the storm channel gave way during the winter storms.

In between the two cave-ins, Sen. Josh Newman secured $8.5 million in the 2022 state budget to help with repairs to the channel. Emergency repairs had been done immediately following the appearance of the first sinkhole, and the channel was functioning, officials said at the time.

Agreement reached releasing money to repair two large sinkholes in a La Habra condo complex

— Heather Mcrea| Orange County Register | August 23, 2023

Agreement reached releasing money to repair two large sinkholes in a La Habra condo complex

This Man Followed The Rules And Got Sweet Financial Revenge. — Matthew Gilligan | TwistedSifter and Reddit | October 17, 2023

Coverage: 1,  2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23


…The story with nuclear for a long time has been one of cost overruns, so the macro conditions here aren't totally new. That being said, there was hope that a company like NuScale -- which specializes in Small Modular Reactors -- would have the secret sauce to overcome the industry's reputation for costliness.

After all, the idea with SMRs is that if you can "mass produce" nuclear power plants through modular design (rather than having each start from scratch) then you accelerate the learning curve, create economies of scale, and get the costs down. It sounds good in theory. So far it hasn't happened in practice.

That being said, if you read the Department of Energy's Pathways to Commercial Liftoff report for advanced nuclear energy, a key element of getting it all right is having a substantial committed orderbook for these projects.

— Joe Weisenthal | Bloomberg 5 Things to Start Your Day | November 22, 2023 | Pathways to Commercial Liftoff for Advanced Nuclear — US DOE


Waste-to-energy (WTE) sounds great, but… the facts:

Florida plans to burn more garbage for fuel — Jacob Knutson | Axios | November 11, 2023

The Cost of Net Zero

UK: …A new report has found that most air source heat pumps are too loud for properties in built up areas as the constant hum of the outdoor units would violate noise limits set for those who wish to install one without planning permission and with a government grant.

In order to qualify for the government grant, any installations of heat pumps must meet noise regulations set out by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) which state they should not generate a noise louder than 42 decibels within one meter of a neighbor’s door or window.

Noise experts tell Government to cool it on heat pumps after new study suggests they could be too loud for millions of homes - throwing net zero target plans into disarray — John James | The Daily Mail | November 14, 2023

Heat pumps ‘too noisy’ for millions of British homes, Government told — Tom Haynes | The Telegraph | November 12, 2023


More electricity, broadband, etc. = more distribution = more utility poles.

…The Class 4 pole owes its ubiquity to dimensions matching many mature trees, Healey said. “That’s how God grows trees,” he said. “God doesn’t grow a Class 2 pole.” 

For those, Koppers must find giants and chop off their tapered tops to make a pole that meets the stouter specifications. Trees big enough could become scarce if demand for the largest poles keeps growing. 

“Based on production data and current harvest schedules, there are not enough larger trees available to sustainably produce the quantity of 40-foot poles made today if the poles had to be two to four classes larger,” the North American Wood Pole Council warned in a 2020 paper. The trade group suggested utilities consider more, not larger, poles. 

Except growers who planted stands specifically to produce poles, winding up with trees that make the cut is lagniappe. “If you’re growing loblolly pine plantations and you get some poles out of your stand, that’s bonus income,” Smith said. 

Koppers’ Healey estimates that the average acre of planted pine yields five to seven poles…

The Electric-Car Era Needs a Lot of Really Big Trees — Ryan Dezember | WSJ | November 09, 2023


Heat pumps are decidedly NOT inexpensive.  Inflation and other factors such as a delayed rollout of IRA credits are slowing adoption.

More Americans are buying heat pumps, an environmentally friendly alternative to furnaces and air-conditioners that can significantly lower monthly energy bills. But the pace of installations has slowed in the past year, posing an obstacle to the Biden administration’s climate plans.

Rising interest rates and inflation combined with a slow and confusing rollout of federal government incentives for the purchase of heat pumps are largely responsible for the recent drop in sales, energy analysts said. These headwinds, if they persist, could jeopardize President Biden’s goals of effectively eliminating U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050.

Mr. Biden’s signature climate law, the Inflation Reduction Act, offers tax credits of up to $2,000 a year for the purchase of heat pumps, devices that can heat and cool homes and are significantly more efficient than oil and gas heaters. Those incentives defray only a small portion of the $16,000 an average heat pump installation costs, according to Rewiring America, a nonprofit group that is working to increase the use of cleaner forms of energy.

A much more generous program that would provide rebates of up to $8,000 for heat pump purchases, which Mr. Biden’s climate law also authorized, is not expected to be up and running until sometime next year; the timing will vary by state. That program is taking longer to set up because it will be run by state governments, which have to devise a system for dispensing the money and then submit those plans for approval by federal officials…

Heat Pump Installations Slow, Impeding Biden’s Climate Goals — Santul Nerkar and Madeleine Ngo | NYT | November 09, 2023


…Just 10 percent of households worldwide have heat pumps today. Those are typically bigger, more complex, and expensive systems that need to be professionally installed. For those reasons, they’re usually out of reach for renters. NYCHA actually did a test run with one of those existing options, called a split system unit, which involved mounting equipment on the roof and on the wall in a tenant’s home. It ended up being too unwieldy, and the project stopped there. 

Unfortunately, when it comes to new, more efficient appliances and clean energy technologies, it’s typically more affluent households that can afford to bring these new things into their homes first. The benefits don’t usually trickle down to lower-income households until later, if at all. 

New York is attempting to flip that scenario now by purchasing new window heat pumps for public housing residents. “The beauty of this project is that some of the lowest-income residents in the city are experiencing the newest technology for the first time so they’re leading in this area, which is really nice and something that we’re very proud of,” says Justin Driscoll, president and CEO of New York Power Authority, the public power organization that procures electricity for NYCHA….

The incredible shrinking heat pump — Justine Calma | The Verge | November 15, 2023


Wood is less environmentally friendly than gas.

A study found that as well as causing significant health and environmental dangers for the home’s occupants and their neighbors, it is at least 15% more costly to heat a home using a wood burner rather than a gas boiler…

Wood burners more costly for heating than gas boilers, study finds — Matthew Taylor | The Guardian | November 11, 2023

‘Eco’ wood burners produce 450 times more pollution than gas heating — Damian Carrington | The Guardian | December 08, 2022


We’ve also covered cement and concrete in Issue# 70 and 64.

Concrete, you might be surprised to learn, is the second most widely used substance on earth after H2O.

The most widely used binding material for concrete today is something known as Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC). There are two important things to know about OPC. First, it is a very old technology—it was first invented around the time George Washington was cutting down cherry trees. Second, it is a very dirty technology from a carbon footprint perspective for reasons I discuss in the Climate Impact section below.

Eco Material’s Sustainable Green Cement Is Transforming Construction — Erik Kobayashi-Solomon | Forbes | November 13, 2023


Climate goals depend on removing CO2 from the atmosphere…

For decades, scientists have tried to figure out ways to reverse climate change by pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and storing it underground. They’ve tried using trees, giant machines that suck CO2 out of the sky, complicated ocean methods that involve growing and burying huge quantities of kelp. Companies, researchers and the U.S. government have spent billions of dollars on the research and development of these approaches and yet they remain too expensive to make a substantial dent in carbon emissions.

“We’ve bet the future of our planet on our ability to remove CO2 from the air,” said Chris Rivest, a partner at Breakthrough Energy Ventures. “Pretty much every IPCC scenario that has a livable planet involves us pulling like 5 to 10 gigatons of CO2 out of the air by mid- to late-century,” he added, referring to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  Five to 10 gigatons of CO2 a year is around 12 to 25 percent of what humanity currently emits every year…

The Lego-like way to get CO2 out of the atmosphere - The Washington Post — Shannon Osaka | The Washington Post | November 13, 2023


This makes sense…

Research shows that in the first decades after the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1967, the rules lowered output and employment, as well as productivity, in pollution-intensive industries. That’s why the cost of those rules has often drawn industry protests. This time, steel and aluminum producers have voiced particularly strong objections, with one company predicting that a tighter standard would “greatly diminish the possibility” that it could restart a smelter in Kentucky that it idled in 2022 because of high energy prices.

New factories, however, tend to have much more effective pollution control systems. That’s especially true for two advanced manufacturing industries that the Biden administration has specifically encouraged: semiconductors and solar panel manufacturing. Trade associations for those industries said by email that a lower standard for particulate matter wasn’t a significant concern.

Regardless, public health advocates argue that the averted deaths, illnesses and lost productivity that air pollution caused far outweigh the cost. The E.P.A. pegs the potential benefits at as much as $55 billion by 2032 if it drops the limit to nine micrograms per cubic meter, from the current 12 micrograms. That is far more than the $500 million it estimates the proposal would cost in 2032.

Polluting Industries Say the Cost of Cleaner Air Is Too High — Tom Gibson | Bloomberg | November 08, 2023


California leads the charge to rid us of highly polluting off-road engines.  Noise can take years off your life: Issue# 68.

It’s a perennial annoyance ruining quiet weekends in US suburbia: The roar of the neighbor’s lawn mower, the whine of a trimmer, the howl of the leaf blower.

If California has its way, the racket will soon be on its way out. The state, which has long been a leader in environmental policy, will become the first to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered lawn mowers and other landscaping tools starting next year.

The rule isn’t just a noise-control measure — it’s primarily aimed at reducing emissions from small off-road engines that are more polluting than all the cars in the state combined. The ban also sets up a new test of Americans’ willingness to embrace cleaner technologies in their daily lives, as they face growing restrictions on everything from gas appliances to conventional cars, and companies go all-in on electric…

According to the California Air Resources Board, a state agency that regulates air quality, a typical gas-powered lawn mower emits as much pollution in one hour as driving a car 300 miles, more than the distance from Los Angeles to Las Vegas…

…Not everyone is on board with the revolution, especially due to cost. Potter says a hand-held electric grass cutter can cost up to 25% more than a gas-powered one, and a push mower as much as 50% more. And some users prefer the performance and durability of gas-powered tools, especially for large or tough jobs. Others worry about the battery life and charging constraints of electric models, along with the upfront expense.

Gas Lawn Care Ban in California Tests Electric Leaf Blower Appeal — Simone Foxman | Bloomberg | November 20, 2023

CO2 Emissions from Lawn & Garden Equipment


The richest 1% of humanity is responsible for more carbon emissions than the poorest 66%, with dire consequences for vulnerable communities and global efforts to tackle the climate emergency, a report says.

The most comprehensive study of global climate inequality ever undertaken shows that this elite group, made up of 77 million people including billionaires, millionaires and those paid more than US$140,000 (£112,500) a year, accounted for 16% of all CO2 emissions in 2019 – enough to cause more than a million excess deaths due to heat, according to the report…

Richest 1% account for more carbon emissions than poorest 66%, report says — Jonathan Watts | The Guardian | November 19, 2023

Climate Equality: A planet for the 99% — Oxfam Policy & Practice


VIDEO: Latest climate assessment reveals how much climate change is costing Americans — Amna Nawaz | PBS NewsHour | November 14, 2023

Climate change altering U.S. in profound ways, major report finds — Andrew Freedman | Axios | November 14, 2023

Billion Dollar Natural Disasters in the United States

World leaders pledged in 2015 to reduce emissions in a combined effort to limit climate change.  Now they are stepping up production of oil, gas and coal, which will have the opposite effect. The top-20 energy-producing nations intend by 2030 to extract double the amount of fossil fuels that would be consistent with the threshold needed to keep warming in check.

Nations Keep Upping Fossil-Fuel Production Despite Climate Pledge — Eric Niller | WSJ | November 08, 2023


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is about to announce new regulations governing soot — the particles that trucks, farms, factories, wildfires, power plants and dusty roads generate. By law, the agency isn’t supposed to consider the impact on polluting industries. In practice, it does — and those industries are warning of dire economic consequences…

Last month, a coalition of major industries, including mining, oil and gas, manufacturing, and timber, sent a letter to the White House chief of staff, Jeffrey D. Zients, warning that “no room would be left for new economic development” in many areas if the E.P.A. went ahead with a standard as tough as it was contemplating, endangering the manufacturing recovery that President Biden had pushed with laws funding climate action and infrastructure investment…

…Regardless, public health advocates argue that the averted deaths, illnesses and lost productivity that air pollution caused far outweigh the cost. The E.P.A. pegs the potential benefits at as much as $55 billion by 2032 if it drops the limit to nine micrograms per cubic meter, from the current 12 micrograms. That is far more than the $500 million it estimates the proposal would cost in 2032.

Polluting Industries Say the Cost of Cleaner Air Is Too High — Tom Gibson | Bloomberg | November 08, 2023


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), colloquially known as “forever chemicals,” are everywhere.  PFOA and PFOS are two types of long-chain PFAS regulated by the EPA due to their widely acknowledged link to cancer.  The EPA’s proposed limit for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water is <= 4 parts per trillion which roughly equivalent to one drop in an olympic swimming pool.  GenX, a PFAS replacement chemical created by DuPont’s Chemours spinoff, has been found to   beBloomberg’s exposé is worth watching.

There is a very high chance you will come into contact with PFAS today. Known as “forever chemicals,” they are almost certainly in your body already. Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances are a group of about 14,000 chemicals used in hundreds of everyday products—from fabric protectors, electronics and non-stick pans to foams, tapes and even toilet paper. PFAS are called “forever chemicals” because the properties that make them so useful to consumers make them very persistent in the environment.

In The Poison In Us All, the premiere episode of the second season of Bloomberg Investigates, we reveal how the chemicals—linked to cancer and the subject of sweeping litigation—originated in the aftermath of the Manhattan Project, spread to myriad consumer products and ended up inside the bodies of almost everyone on the planet… 

How Cancer-Linked PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ Found Their Way Into Everyone — Tom Gibson | Bloomberg | November 08, 2023

VIDEO: The Poison In Us All — Bloomberg Investigates | November 07, 2023

The 60m pounds estimate is likely to be a “dramatic” undercount because PFAS waste is unregulated in the US and companies are not required to record its disposal, the paper’s author, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Peer), wrote.

Still, the findings “depict a vast, unregulated, spreading web of PFAS waste disposal in the United States”, Peer said.

“These data show that we are steadily poisoning ourselves, our waters, and our food chain with extremely persistent toxic chemicals,” said Tim Whitehouse, Peer’s executive director and a former EPA attorney…

US industry disposed of at least 60m pounds of PFAS waste in last five years — Tom Perkins | The Guardian | November 17, 2023


🤯 A map of PFAS contaminated water systems in the Pacific Northwest.

EPA discovers 'forever chemicals' in Pacific Northwest water systems — Kristin Goodwillie | King 5 | November 20, 2023


Backlash forces EPA to pause toxic PFAS waste imports to US from Netherlands — Tom Perkins | The Guardian | November 22, 2023


Recycling falls short on so many levels.  Reference issues 78, 76, 73, 72, 67, and 66.

While the use of recycled plastics is normally considered a noble endeavor, a new study says it's time to think twice. In an analysis of the material from more than 10 different countries, hundreds of potentially harmful chemicals were uncovered.

The study, led by scientists at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, looked at recycled plastic pellets from 13 nations in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. By using a range of chemical analysis tools, it was found that the pellets all contained a mind-boggling array of compounds, many of which are considered highly toxic.

The largest class of chemicals found were pesticides, with 162 chemical compounds coming from this category. Second in the list were 89 different pharmaceuticals. Third place went to 65 different industrial chemicals. These were followed by other classes of chemicals including surfactants, stimulants, fragrances, dyes, repellents, corrosion inhibitors, and more. In all, the researchers say that "491 organic compounds were detected and quantified, with an additional 170 compounds tentatively annotated."

Heaps of pharmaceuticals, toxic chemicals found in recycled plastics — Michael Franco | New Atlas | November 10, 2023



As a UN summit in Nairobi debates a treaty on plastic pollution, Richard Thompson, the biologist who first identified microplastics 30 years ago, explains why ocean cleanups and biodegradables will not solve a global crisis…

‘We can’t carry on’: the godfather of microplastics on how to stop them — Emma Bryce | The Guardian | November 13, 2023


Plastic progress!

…Under a tentative agreement, the 27 EU countries will no longer be able to export their plastic waste outside the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development club of wealthy countries.

The text now needs to be formally approved by both the council representing the EU member states and the EU Parliament to enter into force.

Only a third of plastic waste in Europe is recycled, and half of the plastic collected for recycling is exported to be treated in countries outside the EU.

“The EU will finally assume responsibility for its plastic waste by banning its export to non-OECD countries,” said Pernille Weiss, the EU Parliament rapporteur. “Once again, we follow our vision that waste is a resource when it is properly managed, but should not in any case be causing harm to the environment or human health.”

In addition, plastic waste exports to the 38 OECD countries “will be subject to stricter conditions, including an obligation to apply the prior written notification and consent procedure, and closer compliance monitoring,” the Parliament said…

European Union nations reach major breakthrough to stop shipping plastic waste to poor countries — PBS | November 17, 2023

Housing Affordability & Homelessness

…Since 2011, at least 183 Florida mobile home parks have closed, according to what is self-reported and likely incomplete data from the Florida Mobile Home Relocation Corporation and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Being displaced is never easy, but having it happen today is particularly brutal. Rents have spiraled, affordable housing units are scarce and the wait lists for federal housing vouchers are long…

Carol Hatchet, 61, stood outside the small office of Miami Soar Mobile Home Park on a blistering hot Saturday evening among around 100 other residents. A familiar face, former park manager Steve Carroll, stood atop a water tank and began to tell the sweaty residents a familiar story: about a new vision for their old neighborhood. 

That new vision for their trailer park, bisected by Northwest 82nd Street between Miami Court and First Place, calls for a massive residential, office, retail and hotel development whose centerpiece would be a 50-story tower, far taller than anything currently nearby. It will obliterate their community, consisting of rows of small, aging, pastel-colored trailers, a longtime refuge for retirees, immigrants and families with young kids…

New development will rise to dizzying heights — and wipe out their trailer park — Clara-Sophia Daly | The Miami Herald | October 08, 2023


Paradise Lost.

The golden years. That is what 82-year-old Gustavo Medrano and his wife were looking forward to when they moved to Century Village in Pembroke Pines two years ago.

Gustavo Medrano: “I came here to relax. These are the last days of my life. I don’t know how long I’m going to be here.”

But golden is not how he would describe his life now. He’s afraid his money will run out because of increases in his monthly condo fees…

South Florida seniors struggling to keep roof over their heads due to rising housing costs — Karen Hensel and Janiah Adams | WSVN | November 11, 2023


Remember the Palm Bay Yacht ClubWhat’s old is news!

The Palm Bay Yacht Club in Miami and Palm Lakes in Margate could not be any more different. One is 27 stories, the other just four. One overlooks Biscayne Bay, the other is west of the Turnpike.

But what both condominiums have in common is financial strain set in motion by the condo collapse in Surfside more than two years ago…

Sky-high insurance premiums, required reserve funds and major repairs have some condo associations and owners in dire financial straits

— Karen Hensel and Daniel Cohen | WSVN | November 08, 2023


Property insurance: $200,000 > $640,000 > expect another 30% to 40% increase.

VIDEO: Insurance hike: Florida condos see rise in property insurance rates — Pamela Comme | WESH-2 News | November 14, 2023


Lakewood Park Condominiums in Altamonte Springs, Florida contains 502 units in a townhome style configuration and dates to circa 2006.  Their assessments are slated to increase over 93% per unit.  Queue insurance crisis.

Altamonte Springs condo residents see a nearly 100% increase in HOA fees — Greg Fox| WESH 2 News | October 31, 2023

“The crux of the issue is supply,” says Ned Davis Research. Too many millennials chasing too few homes leads to housing market inflation.

Millennials and the housing market: Why the largest generation in American history will keep home prices high — Alena Botros | Fortune | November 13, 2023


Property tax is a progressive revenue stream.  View property tax rates by state.

The city of Santa Fe estimates that the tax would generate about $6 million annually for its affordable housing trust fund, which underwrites price-restricted housing, down-payment assistance for low-income homebuyers and rental assistance to stave off financial hardship and evictions. The trust awards funds each year to affordable housing providers who can secure matching funds from other government and nonprofit sources.

The new tax is levied against the buyer for residential property sales of $1 million or more — with no tax on the first $1 million in value.

On a $1.2 million home sale, for example, the new tax would apply to $200,000 in value. The buyer would pay $6,000 to the city’s affordable housing trust fund.

'Truly, we're in a crisis': Santa Fe voters add momentum to 'mansion taxes' by approving levy on home sales over $1 million to fund affordable housing

— Morgan Lee and The Associated Press | Fortune | November 08, 2023

Infrastructure + Insurance

“At a time when there’s tremendous tumult in the Gulf Coast insurance marketplace, coastal Alabama has stability and predictability,” said Roy Wright, chief executive of IBHS.

Dubbed the Fortified program, its so-called Gold specifications exceed those of most state and local building codes and include elements such as sealing roof decks, installing impact-resistant windows and doors, and tightly fastening roofs to walls.

Alabama has embraced the program—with a tally of about 43,000 Fortified homes and roofs so far, making up more than 80% of all such construction in the U.S.

Alabama’s efforts illustrate a promising response to an issue confronting many U.S. coastal areas: how to make homes more resilient in the face of stronger storms brought in part by climate change, and to persuade insurers to keep providing coverage for them. Failure on either front could threaten real-estate markets and residents’ ability to continue living in vulnerable areas…

The Coastal State Where Home Insurance Is Relatively Affordable — Adrian Campo-Flores and Meggan Haller | WSJ | November 12, 2023


This news station interviewed California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara:

“We're at a critical stage, when it comes to the availability and affordability of insurance,” Lara said. “Having an uninsurable state is not an option.”

If you own a home, you probably have a mortgage. Lenders generally require homeowners to have fire insurance, which we’ll refer to as ‘homeowners insurance’ throughout this story.

In the past two years, most of the major companies in California’s homeowners insurance market have paused or restricted new business, causing availability to plummet and prices to go up.  “We are seeing these tremendous spikes in premiums,” Lara said…

California's fire insurance crisis might be at a peak — Becca Habegger | ABC10 | November 20, 2023


Sometimes, a town doesn’t have to be underwater to become uninhabitable. All it has to do is be uninsurable.

Cameron Parish, Louisiana, used to be a nice collection of little coastal towns where the shrimping was good and the stars at night were better, James Hiatt told me. Hiatt lives just up the river, in Lake Charles, but he comes down to Cameron to be near the Gulf. He remembers when there were 1,500 people, a grocery store, and a Family Dollar in Cameron, the parish seat. But that was before the storms started smashing through every year or two, and back when more commercial-insurance companies still covered homes here.

Eddie Lejuine, a trout fisherman living one town away, in Hackberry, used to pay $5,800 a year to a private insurer to cover the home he and his wife have lived in for decades, which now sits on stilts set at 16 feet above the water. The company dropped them in June 2021, right in the middle of hurricane season, Lejuine told me. The only insurer who would pick up their policy was the state insurer of last resort, Louisiana Citizens. This year, it cost them $16,000 to cover their home—a rate they can’t afford. They plan to cancel their insurance coverage altogether this year…

The Hypocrisy at the Heart of the Insurance Industry — Zoë Schlanger | The Atlantic | October 18, 2023


In 2019, Citizens Insurance, the state-created and taxpayer-backed insurance company of last resort, ordered 2,200 home inspections. By the end of 2023, the company estimates that it will have ordered about 300,000 home inspections.

That’s more than a 100 fold increase in inspections, compared to a few short years ago. The number of properties the state company insures has roughly doubled over that time frame.  The goal of these inspections, according to the company, is simply to get more accurate information about the homes it insures. 

…Reports have been filled with factual errors, they say, threatening their coverage or raising their insurance premiums based on falsehoods. The people hired by Citizens to do the new home inspections are not licensed by the state of Florida, they point out. The company then relies upon reports made by those unlicensed inspectors to make decisions that can upend the lives of Florida residents…

In push to remove homeowners from Citizens, state-run insurer uses unlicensed inspectors — Daniel Rivero | WLRN + The Miami Herald | November 20, 2023


Canceled coverage and complaints.

VIDEO: Insurance companies lowballed or denied roof damage claims from hail in Illinois and Indiana, dozens of homeowners say

— Samantha Chatman | WLS-TV | November 09, 2023


CASE# 2:23-cv-011414 | U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington

WHO: Rolling Hills Condominium Complex Homeowners' Association v. Commonwealth Insurance Co. of America et al.

A Seattle-area condominium association asked a Washington federal court to force its insurer to cover more than $11 million in hidden water damage to its complex, launching its latest bid to have its historical insurers pay for the loss…

The association said it hired an investigative firm to conduct a joint intrusive investigation with Commonwealth and its other historical insurers, which uncovered "extensive hidden damage" to sheathing and other components throughout the property. The association's experts attributed the losses to long-term incremental water damage and estimated repair costs at more than $11 million, according to the complaint…

Rolling Hills has filed multiple similar suits against its other historical insurers. Two cases ended in voluntary dismissals, with the association permanently ending its row with State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. in January and dropping its claims against Northern Insurance Co. of New York without prejudice in May, filings show.

One suit targeting Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co. ended in a settlement in August. The case, initiated in December, was scheduled to head to trial next February.

Insurer Won't Cover $11M Water Damage, Condo Co. Says — Riley Murdock | Law 360 | September 12, 2023


A Seattle condominium association urged a Washington federal court to find that an insurer owes it $2.8 million in coverage for hidden, systemwide damage discovered in its property…

Seattle Condo Association Seeks $2.8M For Building Damage — Jennifer Mandato | Law 360 | November 02, 2023

Housing Market

The share of US homes that are mortgage-free jumped 5 percentage points from 2012 to 2022, to a record just shy of 40%. More than half of these owners have reached retirement age. Freedom from mortgage debt gives them the option to age in place—or uproot to sunnier climes…

Amid High Mortgage Rates, Higher Share of Americans Outright Own Homes — Alexandre Tanzi | Bloomberg | November 17, 2023

Percentage of Mortgage-Free Homes in the United States
Change in the Number of Mortgage-Free Homes by Age Group

[Legacy] fixed-rate loans should be viewed as highly valuable assets interest rate surge:

Getting one’s head around the idea that money you owe to someone else is an asset is hard. And sure, you still owe the money. But apply the logic used in the market, and there’s been a transfer of well over $1 trillion in wealth from banks and bondholders to borrowers as rates have soared—a gain in wealth widely ignored by the beneficiaries.

This isn’t just about thanking your lucky stars that you locked in a mortgage before rates jumped from record lows below 3% at the end of 2020 to the current level near 8%. In a world without financial frictions, the average borrower would see that they were tens of thousands of dollars richer as a result. Those who secured a sub-3% rate for the full 30 years on an average-size mortgage are more than $100,000 better off…

The Trillion-Dollar Win Hiding in Your Mortgage — James Mackintosh | WSJ | November 13, 2023


There just aren’t enough billionaires, and no one wants to live in Hudson Yards.

If you want views of Central Park and at least 6,000 never-before-lived-in square feet from which to admire them, you’ve got a lot to choose from right now: Central Park Tower’s 17,545-square-foot penthouse — “a once-in-a-generation residence” — is on sale for 22 percent off its original asking price of $250 million. An 8,000-square-foot duplex at MoMA Tower, an asymmetrical crystalline skypiercer designed by Jean Nouvel, has been trying to get $63.18 million for the past five years. Over at 111 West 57th, $54.6 million will buy you a “spectacular, one-of-a-kind” duplex with “breathtaking, unobstructed 360-degree vistas.” (IMMEDIATE OCCUPANCY is plastered atop the building’s StreetEasy listings.)

While the low-interest-rate-fueled buying spree of the past few years burned through most of New York City’s residential inventory, it barely touched Manhattan’s newly built trophy apartments. On Billionaire’s Row, 23 percent of sponsor units remain unsold, according to an analysis by appraisal firm Miller Samuel. And that’s not counting all the people looking to offload the ones they previously bought, which likely brings the total percentage of trophy apartments seeking buyers closer to 50 percent. “Many people thought the super-luxury market was wider and deeper than it actually was,” says Jonathan Miller of Miller Samuel. There just aren’t as many billionaires looking for real estate to park $30 or $40 million as developers thought there were…

Manhattan's Trophy Apartments Are Gathering Dust — Kim Velsey | Curbed | November 13, 2023


Speculation over potential fallout from the landmark NAR verdict and coverage of US home buying and selling processes just keeps coming.

The way we buy and sell homes in the U.S. isn’t normal—at least not compared with the rest of the world.

The commission on a home sale here is typically around 5% to 6%, usually split between the seller’s and buyer’s agents. In most countries, the commissions are substantially smaller.

The U.S. is home to as many as three million agents. By most estimates, no other country is even a close second.

Almost No One Pays a 6% Real-Estate Commission—Except Americans — Veronica Dagher | WSJ | November 16, 2023

Built Environment

While some metrics for downtown recovery have looked pretty good in recent months, interest in leasing new office space is not one of them…

“I don’t think we saw one tenant come in over 50,000 square feet for a whole quarter [in Seattle],” said Lexi Russell, senior market research manager at VTS. “I think it’s kind of concerning.”  The only tenants coming into the Seattle market in the third quarter were those seeking smaller office spaces. There was an uptick in tenants looking for midsized office spaces of 10,000-50,000 square feet, which prevented an all-out crash in demand.

“Small companies — three- to five-person companies — aren’t the ones moving the needle,” Russell said. “All the volatility we’ve been seeing in Seattle is from that dearth of large tenants.”

In bad sign for downtown Seattle recovery, demand for office space tanks — Gene Balk | The Seattle Times | November 17, 2023


Businesses are making big bets in downtown Seattle, despite it all — Paul Roberts | The Seattle Times | November 19, 2023


This story comes alive again from Issue# 69.

For much of 2023, a leviathan loomed over San Francisco’s Outer Sunset neighborhood in the form of a 55-story, 714-unit development residential tower proposed for 2700 Sloat Boulevard, just a few blocks from the ocean. After renderings of the giant development were made public, neighbors revolted. The city said the project didn’t meet planning codes. A contentious few months of debate ensued, and the leviathan appeared to be slain. But very soon, the failures of our local leaders may resurrect it — and spawn a series of new ones across the city.

Last year, fellow SF YIMBY volunteer David Broockman and I sounded the alarm in an op-ed for the Chronicle over San Francisco’s housing element, its plan for accommodating 82,000 new units of housing. If city officials failed to present state regulators with a convincing plan, we argued, San Francisco would lose local control over its planning. We even warned that failure to comply would result in skyscrapers built on Ocean Beach.

Although city officials eventually won state approval for their housing element, they are now refusing to implement it. No surprise, this has angered the state. And that means projects like 2700 Sloat are closer than ever to becoming reality.

On Oct. 25, the California Department of Housing and Community Development issued a damning report scrutinizing San Francisco’s housing practices, accusing the city of failing to comply with several state housing laws. The findings were clear: Our city takes longer to approve new housing than anywhere else in the state and makes approvals unnecessarily difficult. Alongside this report, the department issued an ultimatum: reform housing rules and pass a bill from Mayor London Breed to remove development constraints by Nov. 24 or face dire consequences, including potential intervention from state Attorney General Rob Bonta…

Remember the 50-story Sunset skyscraper? Shenanigans all but ensure it gets approved — Robert Fruchtman | San Francisco Chronicle | November 18, 2023


Investors view housing supply differently than folks who don’t have a house.

Multifamily real estate has an oversupply problem right now. A record-breaking 554,000 multifamily units are projected to be completed this year, according to That’s a 50-year high, according to RentCafe. While the demand for new apartments is still high, it’s not keeping up with supply. Units have been slower to rent or are remaining vacant longer than projected, leading to flattening or falling rents—especially in the Sun Belt states where there is the highest imbalance between supply and demand…

Oversupply in Multifamily Real Estate: How We're Mitigating Risk — Chris Neumann | Origin Investments | October 13, 2023

Condo Connection's financial coverage is indexed to our Dollar$ and $ense page dedicated to all things CIC finance.

The ability of US households to cover an unexpected $2,000 expense is at the lowest level in a decade, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said.

Only 65.8% of surveyed households said they would be able to come up with $2,000 if an unexpected need arose within the next month, according to the NY Fed’s latest survey of consumer expectations and credit access, which is conducted every four months. That’s the lowest since the series began in 2013, the New York Fed said. In 2022 the average reading was 67.5%...

US Households’ Financial Fragility Is Worst in Decade, New York Fed Says — Alexanre Tanzi | Bloomberg | November 20, 2023

Ability to Pay for an Unexpected $2,000 Expense

The world spent the past decade-plus taking advantage of rock-bottom interest rates to binge on debt. An unprecedented bill is coming due.

Governments are expected to spend a net $2 trillion paying interest on their debt this year as higher interest rates make borrowing more expensive, up more than 10% from 2022, according to an analysis of International Monetary Fund data by research consulting firm Teal Insights and a separate analysis by Fitch Ratings. By 2027, it could top $3 trillion, according to Teal Insights. 

The surge in interest costs leaves governments with difficult choices. As debt servicing takes up more revenue, politicians face unpopular decisions to raise taxes, cut spending or keep running deficits that will add to interest costs. That comes as they face higher military spending amid escalating geopolitical uncertainty, as well as the costs of responding to extreme and costly weather events and caring for rapidly aging populations…

The $2 Trillion Interest Bill That’s Hitting Governments — Chelsey Dulaney, Andrew Duehren and Peter Santilli | WSJ | November 14, 2023

World Governments' Annual Net Interest Payments on Debt

… check out this chart from Bank of America's latest fund manager survey. An overwhelming number of recipients see long-term rates heading lower next year.  Not surprisingly, fund managers have flipped to being bullish on bonds in a way we haven't seen since 2009…

— Joe Weisenthal | Bloomberg 5 Things to Start Your Day | November 14, 2023 

Has the Fed Reached the Top of the Mountain? — Victoria Cavaliere | Bloomberg Weekend Reading | November 11, 2023


There’s a stark divide among Wall Street banks over how aggressive they think the Federal Reserve will be in cutting interest rates next year.

On one side are UBS Group AG and Morgan Stanley, each of which anticipate deep interest-rate cuts in 2024 as inflation cools and the economy stalls. On the other is Goldman Sachs Group Inc., where analysts expect fewer reductions and a later start.

The diverging opinions come after Treasuries were whipsawed in recent weeks, with traders seeking to make sense of the latest economic data even as looming debt sales fueled supply concerns. US bonds slumped sharply last month, driving yields to multi-year highs, only to rally in November after the Fed held rates steady and Chair Jerome Powell signaled the central bank’s tightening cycle may finally be over. 

Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, UBS Diverge on Fed Rate-Cut Forecasts — Molly Smith and Alice Atkins | Bloomberg | November 12, 2023

Market Bets for Federal Reserve Easing in 2024

Rising alarm that Treasury yields will spiral higher amid deteriorating fiscal conditions won't find much backing in history, Matt King wrote in the Financial Times. 

Instead, higher borrowing levels in developed economies have almost always been associated with lower bond yields, according to the Satori Insights founder.

"This finding is not confined to the US: it holds in Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, Switzerland and Australia back to the 1880s," wrote King, who is also a former global markets strategist at Citigroup.

It also applies to overall debt levels as well as fiscal deficits, which he called "deeply counterintuitive."...

A bond 'doom loop' should mean that yields rise with more borrowing — but history says the opposite — Filip De Mott | Insider | November 17, 2023

Cashing In

10-year Treasury bonds have been a worse investment than gold bullion this year, last year, the year before that, and all the way back to 2018…

U.S. Treasury bonds are not ’safe’ — Brett Arends | MarketWatch | November 13, 2023


The bond bull market that lasted four decades came to a halt in 2020. The yield on long-dated government bonds has quadrupled. Now what?

Facing off on this question are two extremists, both longtime analysts of the yield curve, both stubbornly sticking to views they have long held. One, a bull on bonds, was spectacularly right for 38 years and then just as spectacularly wrong. The other has a track record that is almost a mirror image.

The bull is Gary Shilling, a Ph.D. economist whose A. Gary Shilling’s Insight newsletter is aimed at corporate treasurers and money managers. In 1982 he made the very contrarian argument that inflation was destined to recede, meaning you’d do well to own long-dated Treasury bonds whose coupons were fat in anticipation of high inflation. He’s making the same argument today. In the portfolios he manages he’s long the long bond and long the U.S. dollar.

James Grant, publisher of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, is the bear, sour on both government bonds and the dollars with which they will be redeemed. For a long time, his letter has offered acerbic comments about the “Ph.D. standard of monetary management,” by which Grant means the Federal Reserve’s theories about why it’s a good idea to print money with abandon. He thinks gold is a better store of value than a greenback...

Inflation Isn’t Over. Do You Dare Buy A Long Treasury? — William Baldwin | Forbes | November 15, 2023


A chart like this reinforces the relative returns of fixed income – especially principal-guaranteed securities – vs. other investment vehicles such as stocks.  

There are so many arguments about risk tolerance, but that's the entire point of being "well funded" and having an accurate reserve plan that looks out 30 years or more.  IF your community association doesn't know what to expect at least 5 years out, there's something very wrong.  Of course there can be surprises, but any association with “money in the bank” should have some degree of certainty when you'll need those funds and how to invest at different maturities to maximize returns.  More:

Retirees just got a raise.  Well, not quite a raise, exactly. But the percentage a retiree can safely withdraw annually from savings over 30 years, with a strong chance of not running out of money, got bumped up in Morningstar’s annual retirement income report, released Monday. It’s now 4%, up from last year’s 3.8%.

The uptick comes because “bond yields are higher, and we are relatively sanguine about [long-term] inflation,” said John Rekenthaler, director of research at Morningstar and one of the report’s authors.

The Morningstar analysis tested real-life returns and rates in 1,000 possible market environments to arrive at a withdrawal rate with a 90% probability of someone having funds left over after 30 years.

That 4% is the highest safe withdrawal rate on a portfolio that holds 20% to 40% in stocks, 10% in cash and the rest in bonds. Morningstar uses that as its conservative base case, and then looks at what the safe rate would be for portfolios with other asset mixes…

Higher Bond Yields Mean Retirees Can Pull a Bit More From Savings — Suzanne Woolley | Bloomberg | November 13, 2023

Morningstar Projected 30 Year Returns by Security
Dollar$ and Sen$e: Are you Investing, Gambling or Guessing?

Cashing Out

The Federal Reserve said that it’s keeping close tabs on potential losses at banks stemming from commercial real estate and elevated interest rates.

The central bank laid out the areas of concern in its semiannual report on supervision, adding that it has bolstered oversight following this year’s collapse of multiple midsize lenders. Thursday’s report is just the latest to highlight how last year’s rapid rate hikes affected banks.

The collapses of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank in March exposed gaps in federal oversight. Michael Barr, the Fed’s vice chair for supervision, has pledged changes. In addition to new regulations, he has said the regulator will reevaluate how it scrutinizes a bank’s management of interest-rate liquidity risks.

Fed Sees Risks for Banks From US Office Space, Interest Rates — Katanga Johnson | Bloomberg | November 09, 2023

US Regulators Asks Lenders to Help Firms With Commercial Real Estate Stress — Benjamin Bain | Bloomberg | June 29, 2023

Rules could change after bikes, ball playing prohibited in Wadsworth neighborhood — Tessa DiTirro | News 5 Cleveland | September 12, 2023

Dick Cunningham and Walter Rozycki want to do what a lot of other Denver-area homeowners have done: put solar panels on their roofs. But the Aurora residents say their homeowner association board pulled the plug on their plans in defiance of state law.

An attorney and solar advocate who wrote an amendment to a law on HOAs and solar systems said the board at the Villas at Cherry Creek is flouting the state law designed to protect people’s right to use solar energy to power their homes.

The attorney for the HOA said the board’s position has been misrepresented and that the board’s policy is in line with state law…

Aurora residents accuse HOA of illegally blocking solar installations — Judith Kohler | The Denver Post | November 16, 2023

...Our narrow reading of this power parallels the general rule that design-control powers do not include “an implied power to impose design controls for aesthetic purposes.”   

…As the [Third Restatement of Property: Servitudes] recognizes, design-control powers “are not necessary to the effective functioning of the community,” and “powers to control the design of individual properties within the community do not necessarily further public interests or fulfill reasonable expectations of the property owners.”  

While express design-control powers granted by statute or by the declaration are generally enforceable, the scope of implied powers is limited to governing or protecting common property and preventing “nuisance-like activities” on individually owned property.  

The rationale for not giving an expansive interpretation to an association’s power to make rules restricting use of individually owned property is based in the traditional expectations of property owners that they are free to use their property for uses that are not prohibited and do not unreasonably interfere with the neighbors’ use and enjoyment of their property.  Discretionary design-control powers that are not expressly authorized by statute or by the declaration “create two kinds of risks for property owners”:  property owners:

(1) “may not be able to develop in accordance with their expectations because they cannot predict how the controls will be applied” and

(2) “may be subject to arbitrary or discriminatory treatment because there are no standards against which the appropriateness of the power’s exercise can be measured.”

The Restatement warns that “[i]f allowed, completely unfettered design-control powers could depress property values and operate as unreasonable restraints on alienation.”

2019 Supreme Court of Virginia: Sainani v. Belmont Glen Homeowners Association

Some people in a Port Orange neighborhood say their HOA [Waters Edge] is spoiling their holiday spirit, telling them to take their lights down. One home known as the "Christmas house" has almost 100,000 lights. It takes at least 30 days to put up all the decorations and once completed, its owner dresses up as Santa and even hands out gifts. 

They've been doing it for five years in the same place, but this year they say their HOA sent a letter saying the lights aren't allowed before Thanksgiving.

Neighbors next door and across the street have their lights up too.

"My message to the HOA is we appreciate all you do, but let’s focus on the bigger problems, let’s focus on the bigger things, not Christmas lights," said Geoff Menneto who also has an elaborate light display.

‘I don’t care what they say’: Florida homeowners push back on HOA Christmas light rule — Connor Hansen | FOX 35 Orlando | November 17, 2023

Attention Homeowners and Residents,

In light of the concerns expressed during the Open Forum at the November 14th meeting, the Board would like to address the issues raised regarding the time frame for early decorations and the language outlined in the Signs and Flag Policy.

It is imperative to convey that the Board is cognizant of your apprehensions and appreciates your engagement in community matters. We want to assure you that your concerns have been duly noted, and the Board is maintaining an open-minded approach in assessing the requests in the context of the broader community.

No definitive decisions will be reached between now and the Annual Meeting, allowing ample time for a thorough review of the policy. Consequently, any potential violations related solely to holiday decorations will be temporarily suspended pending the outcome of the policy review...

Port Orange Christmas light tradition pits neighbors against HOAMolly Reed | Click Orlando | November 17, 2023

Seems Like Bullying

…the substantial, sudden cost increases at 2033 Calais Drive also reflect the tactic of investors taking over condo boards and making spending decisions with limited input from other owners who must also foot the bills. Condo associations in Florida have broad latitude to make financial decisions under a “business judgment rule” that protects directors from liability, as long as they can show a reasonable basis for their spending, said Roberto Blanch, a South Florida condo lawyer.

“There is this gray area, I think — let’s call it this wiggle room — that might be enough to let them get away with some unsubstantiated or some uncorroborated increases,” Blanch said. “The board can always get away with saying, ‘We’re just spitballing here.’ ”

At Fiorda’s building, a new board controlled by Stonemason and its leader, Gustaf Arnoldsson, passed a 2023 operating budget of more than $271,000, up from about $66,000 in 2022, according to a document Fiorda provided to the Herald.

The proposed spending includes increases in legal fees from around $800 to $20,000, management fees from $4,800 to $9,600 and, most significantly, reserve fund contributions from $5,800 to $150,000.


At 8125 Crespi Boulevard, Sipiwe Anderson, a fashion model and member of Miami Beach’s Black Affairs Advisory Committee, was removed as president of her four-unit building’s condo board and hit with a series of special assessments after a Texas man purchased the three units above hers early last year. 

Anderson, who lives in the canal-front property with her husband and two children, is now being told to pay $169,000 for her share of repairs between 2022 and 2024, including a total of $100,000 made in quarterly payments this year, records show. The assessments are for upgrades including $150,000 for concrete restoration, $150,000 for seawall repairs, $50,000 for balcony and railing improvements and $50,000 for the dock…

'Seems like bullying to me': Investors took over their condo boards. Costs skyrocketed — Aaron Leibowitz | Miami Herald | June 15, 2023


A 206-unit Chicago condo building has hit the market expecting to fetch more than $40 million with plans for deconversion to rental apartments.

Hampden Green Condominiums in Lincoln Park on the market for deconversion — Wendell Hutson | Chicago Business Journal | November 16, 2023


Work is underway on 118 West 13th Street, a seven-story residential conversion in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village Historic District. Designed by BKSK Architects and developed by Slate Property Group, which acquired the property for $22.85 million and is partnering with private equity firm Avenue Realty Capital, the project will create eight condominium units spread across 34,000 square feet. The structure was originally built in 1931 and formerly served as the 175-room Eugene Lang College dormitory for The New School, once touted as the most expensive college dorm in the United States. The project is located on an interior lot between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.

Condominium Conversion Begins at 118 West 13th Street in Greenwich Village, Manhattan 

— Michael Young and Matt Pruznick | New York YIMBY | October 05, 2023

These homeowners are protected by Florida statutes containing specific “bulk owner” protections.  Such language is 

WHO: Owners @ Sandpiper Village (Piper Village West, Inc.)

WHERE: 3901 36th Court, West Palm Beach, FL 33407

CASE#: 50-2022-CA-004827-XXXX-MB


ORDER: 502022CA004827XXXXMB_80 - Final Order - 090123

§718.117(3) OPTIONAL TERMINATION. — The condominium form of ownership may be terminated for all or a portion of the condominium property pursuant to a plan of termination meeting the requirements of this section and approved by the division. Before a residential association submits a plan to the division, the plan must be approved by at least 80 percent of the total voting interests of the condominium. However, if 5 percent or more of the total voting interests of the condominium have rejected the plan of termination by negative vote or by providing written objections, the plan of termination may not proceed.

(3)(c)(3)For their respective units, all unit owners other than the bulk owner must be compensated at least 100 percent of the fair market value of their units. The fair market value shall be determined as of a date that is no earlier than 90 days before the date that the plan of termination is recorded and shall be determined by an independent appraiser selected by the termination trustee. For a person whose unit was granted homestead exemption status by the applicable county property appraiser, or was an owner-occupied operating business, as of the date that the plan of termination is recorded and who is current in payment of both assessments and other monetary obligations to the association as of the date the plan of termination is recorded, the fair market value shall be at least the original purchase price paid for the unit.

The central issue before the Court is whether §718.117, Fla. Stat., of the Florida Condominium Act retroactively applies to the Amended Declaration. Stated differently, the parties seek to determine whether their termination plan was validly implemented in accordance with Article 16 of the Amended Declaration or whether it is controlled by the aforesaid statute.


Bulk buyers are investors who purchase multiple units in a condominium. When they own enough units, they can install their own board members and control the condominium. Sometimes, bulk buyers want to own all the units in a property.  But how they go about doing this is key.

In the case of Sandpiper Village, both residents and investors are uneasy co-owners in the 69-unit condo that dates to the 1970s.  In 2017, Piper Ventures paid $3.9 million for a bulk purchase of units. Today, Piper Ventures owns 63 units.

The Holland & Knight lawyers said the Sandpiper matter is a sign of the times as older properties along the coast attract investors wishing to get a toehold in the state's sizzling real estate market.

Sandpiper Village condo might still be terminated by Piper Ventures, but it's also likely that the independent owners would be a large enough bloc to stop the move if the vote follows the 5% state law, Zimmerman said…

West Palm condo residents win fight against bulk buyer making low-ball offers. — Alexandra Clough | The Palm Beach Post | November 05, 2023

…Currently, sports and holiday flags are scattered across the neighborhood.  However, internal HOA records show most of the citations for violating this rule in 2023 were for Pride flags.

…In response, the HOA attorney told us, “Based on the concerns raised by the members, the Board intends to review the current rules and determine whether any changes need to be made.”

A letter sent out by the HOA says that the Board will be reviewing flag rules in a future board meeting.

VIDEO: Wekiva community residents cited for Pride flags want HOA to answer for ‘selective enforcement’ — Sabrina Maggiore | WFTV | November 10, 2023

Mark Brown from Capital University believes that governments lack the authority to “cherry pick” which flags to protect, yet many state governments have – for years – enacted protections for flags with specific types of content.

A dispute over an Israeli flag hanging outside of a [home in the New Albany Park Condominium Association located in Columbus] is revealing government attempts to block homeowner associations in Ohio from banning certain flags…

Ohio bill allowing 'unapproved' flags in HOA, condo communities called unconstitutional — Sabrina Maggiore | WSYX | November 10, 2023

When you enter the Silverleaf Arcadia neighborhood in North Scottsdale the first thing you'll notice is the multi-million dollar homes that fill the community.

What you will also notice are the hundreds of Sissoo trees that line the streets and people's properties. Shading the roads, parks, and homes…

That's when they filed a temporary restraining order against DC Ranch that was granted by a Maricopa County Superior Court Judge. The move mandates that the HOA can't remove any other Sissoo trees unless homeowners agree to it.

Those against the removal were okay with that until January of this year when each homeowner received an assessment from the HOA that said they owed $3,000 for Sissoo tree removal in the neighborhood…

VIDEO: Scottsdale homeowners get restraining order against HOA to keep Sissoo trees in neighborhood — Chase Golightly | KPNX 12 News | May 22, 2023

The hotel owner of the Epic Miami Residences & Hotel [414 rooms managed by Kimpton] at 200 Biscayne Boulevard Way is suing the condo association for the 54-story tower’s condominium component. The lawsuit, filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court on Oct. 20, alleges the association hasn’t paid $763,313 in shared maintenance expenses dating back to 2020 and that the condo association for Epic’s 362 residential units is in violation of the condo-hotel’s master declaration that requires maintenance and repairs of the building’s common areas be shared equally…

A bulk of the funds the association allegedly owes, roughly $398,000, is for a line item identified as “BDA Project” on a list of repairs and maintenance expenses attached to the lawsuit. The association also allegedly owes $104,000 for a new moisture control system in the building’s elevator shafts, $91,000 to upgrade security cameras and nearly $33,000 to replace smoke detectors that were completed this year, the list shows…

Epic Hotel Owners Slap Condo Association With Lawsuit — Francisco Alvarado | The RealDeal | November 10, 2023

Model Code of Ethics and Oath of Office

Don’t forget there’s often sparse teeth behind such agreements.  WHY?  At the very least because members are responsible for recalling directors (example), so attempting to enforce an automatic removal from the Board (an oft sought remedy) due to an ethical lapse is challenging at best and illegal at worst.

The distinction of the U.S. Supreme Court's new code of conduct, its first in 234 years of existence, was tarnished a bit in some court watchers' eyes by the lack of an enforcement mechanism.

The Supreme Court Conduct Code's Glaring Flaw — Katie Buehler | Law 360 | November 13, 2023

The Supreme Court is adopting its first code of ethics, in the face of sustained criticism over undisclosed trips and gifts from wealthy benefactors to some justices…

The issue has vexed the court for several months, over a series of stories questioning the ethical practices of the justices. Many of those stories focused on Justice Clarence Thomas and his failure to disclose travel and other financial ties with wealthy conservative donors including Harlan Crow and the Koch brothers. But Justices Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor also have been under scrutiny…

The code released Monday includes a one-page statement, nine pages of rules and five pages of commentary interpreting the rules.

The Supreme Court says it is adopting a code of ethics for the first time — Mark Sherman | AP | November 13, 2023

SCOTUS Code of Conduct — November 13, 2023

Community Association MODEL Code of Ethics & Oath of Office

Florida Bill Seeks to Boost State Power Over Condos, HOAs — Lidia Dinkova | TheRealDeal | November 20, 2023

In one Treasure Valley subdivision, a homeowner tried for months to get the homeowners association board to approve her paint colors. She was dismissed from a committee. She started asking questions and realized her HOA board had elected new members seemingly without community input.

In another, homeowners started asking questions after a special assessment added additional fees last year. But they said it was hard to find answers, including about the HOA’s finances. And they realized the developer had changed the covenants to possibly keep more control over the community.

Many people like to bash their HOA. But some homeowners say that Idaho’s lack of regulations has allowed many HOAs to operate without scrutiny and transparency. The growth in the Treasure Valley means many of the thousands of new homes are under an HOA, and many out-of-state transplants come here expecting more regulation…

Paint, money and control: Idaho homeowners say more HOA regulation is needed — Carolyn Komatsoulis | Idaho Press | September 27, 2023

"It doesn't matter who you talk to, no one thinks this process is set up to help the unit owners," Bradley said. She pointed to issues such as a lack of access to records and "rigging" elections.   Her comments came at the end of a panel discussion held by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee about issues such as corruption in condominium associations. 

…Bradley during the past two years has helped spearhead laws dealing with issues such as condominium building inspections and association financial reserves. Those laws stemmed from the deadly collapse of a condominium building in Surfside.

Florida Senate considers changes in condo associations — CBS Miami | November 14, 2023

A Proposal To Overhaul Condominium Management — Marcia Kimura | Honolulu Civil Beat | November 17, 2023

Is The Condominium Model Of Housing Crumbling? — Lila Mower | Honolulu Civil Beat | October 23, 2023

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