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Despite a competitive housing market and current concerns about housing affordability, 70% of Americans still see owning a home as a clear sign of success in adulthood, according to Wells Fargo’s 2019 “How America Views Homeownership” survey.

Seven in 10 respondents of the survey of 1,004 adults 21 years and older say that owning a house is on par with having a career as a sign of a successful adult. Those surveyed note that they see homeownership as a clearer sign of success over getting married (32%) or having children (34%).

Close to 90% of the respondents say that the benefits of homeownership outweigh the drawbacks. If they could do it all over again, current homeowners say they would still choose to buy their home (93%) instead of continuing to rent, and nearly all (95%) note that owning a home is a better financial decision in the long run than renting.

Affording a down payment is seen as the primary hurdle to buying a home, according to 27% of those surveyed, with 38% of aspiring millennial homeowners naming it their biggest challenge to achieving homeownership. Wells Fargo notes, however, that some mortgage lenders allow qualified buyers to put as little as 3% down on a home.

Nearly 8 in 10 homeowners would be willing to move to a smaller city or town to afford their home, and 74% say that they would consider buying a smaller home with fewer amenities.
First-time homebuyers frequently look to condominiums as a lower-cost housing option. Roughly 40% of the 347,000 community associations in the U.S. are condominiums, according to the 2018-2019 National and Statistical Review for Community Association Data from the Foundation for Community Association Research. Recently updated requirements from the Federal Housing Administration should make lending easier for condominium unit buyers.

More than 73 million U.S. residents currently live in a community association—up from 62 million in 2010. Community associations are growing due to the value of collective management, privatization of public maintenance services, and the expansion of affordable housing options.

©2019 Community Associations Institute. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution prohibited.



HOAs and Outdoor Lights: New case flips the switch on community rules


Homeowners in one Virginia community association are allowed to display string lights year-round after the state supreme court ruled that the community’s holiday light guidelines were unenforceable.

In 2013, the Belmont Glen Homeowners Association in Ashburn, Va., began fining a family that displayed a string of lights on their front door and on their back-deck railing to celebrate Hindu, Sindhi, and Sikh religious holidays throughout the year, according to WTOP

A Loudoun County circuit court ruled in favor of the association in 2018, siding with the community’s claim that it had a responsibility to preserve and protect property values and that meant adhering to the associations covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs).

Virginia’s highest court has now ruled that the HOA’s CC&Rs didn’t adequately specify the conditions in which the lights violated the association’s rules and, therefore, the rules were unenforceable. Kenneth E. Chadwick, shareholder and founding member of Chadwick, Washington, Moriarty, Elmore & Bunn, P.C., in Fairfax, Va., and a fellow in CAI’s College of Community Association Lawyers, weighs in on what this ruling means for how associations interpret and enforce exterior home guidelines going forward.

©2019 Community Associations Institute. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution prohibited.




Speeding cars were a contributing factor in 26% of vehicle-related deaths in 2017, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Even with the best road and weather conditions, driving too fast exponentially reduces a driver’s control over steering and increases the time it takes to stop a vehicle. Of course, the number of accidents caused by speeding can be exacerbated by poorly maintained, wet, or slippery pavement.

Dunes West Property Owners Association in Mount Pleasant, S.C., started using radar about five years ago to gather information about residents’, visitors’, and contractors’ driving habits within the community. Information gathered by the association’s radar “guides police deployment” by indicating to local law enforcement when and where drivers are most likely to exceed the posted speed within or near the community. The association encourages local law enforcement to issue tickets on the community’s private roads.

Dunes West’s radar also has been effective in controlling contractors who drive within the community. Several homes are still under construction in Dunes West; builders can purchase coded decals that open Dunes West’s automatic liftgates so contractors’ vehicles can come and go efficiently from the community. If radar indicates contractors are habitually speeding, the codes can be revoked, which could be costly for a builder. Every community wants their roads to be safe. Association board members and managers know that speeding is a huge threat to residents’ safety. But are drivers aware of how fast they are going? How do they feel about technologies like driver feedback signs to slow traffic down?

The answers to these questions could be key in successfully eliminating speeding and safeguarding local roads. The findings of an Ipsos survey of 1,000 randomly selected drivers from across the U.S. provide insight into how drivers perceive others’ driving, as well as their own.

When asked if they thought speed limits were being observed by other drivers in their neighborhood, only 16% of people thought they were always followed. Almost all drivers (84%) felt that others were speeding some of the time. In contrast, close to half of respondents felt that speed limits were never or almost never obeyed. Clearly, residents are concerned that others are speeding.

The survey found that 62% of drivers feel that they are always aware of their speeds. A staggering 91% of drivers say they are sometimes or always aware of their speeds.

Whether drivers are mistaken about their speeds, unaware of speed limits, or speeding in spite of them, solutions such as driver feedback signs have been shown to improve awareness, decrease speeds, and positively impact driver behavior.

Speeding on your streets puts everyone at risk. It triples the odds of crashing, contributes to a third of fatal accidents, and increases the risk of injury with every increased mile per hour.

Armed with the awareness of how drivers perceive others’ driving behavior and their own, communities can work toward protecting their streets and everyone who uses them.

©2019 Community Associations Institute. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution prohibited.




Smoking bans in the U.S. have become commonplace over the past three decades. Policies have been adopted by local and state governments to make workplaces and public spaces completely devoid of smoke from cigarettes and, more recently, vaping devices. Secondhand smoke concerns have ignited efforts to completely ban smoking in high-rise residential buildings too.

Of the estimated 80 million people in the U.S. who live in multiunit housing, including high-rise condominiums and cooperatives, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that each year, approximately 28 million of them are exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes, inhaling many of the substances that can cause emphysema, heart disease, and lung cancer.

“The problem is that even when smoking outside, if you’re close to the building, the smoke is actually pulled into nearby windows and doors. Even if they are closed, the smoke still comes in because buildings are not air-tight,” explains Esther Schiller, executive director of California-based nonprofit Smokefree Air For Everyone. The CDC adds that secondhand smoke also can spread through cracks in walls, electrical lines, ventilation systems, and plumbing.

Many condominiums have opted to adopt no-smoking amendments in their covenants, conditions, and restrictions to eliminate smoking in all indoor and outdoor common areas and inside individual units. Schiller’s organization provides resources, such as survey templates, to find out if most residents “want the whole complex to be smoke-free.”

If an association’s documents do not have a stance on smoking, a unit owner may be left with a remedy of a claim for “nuisance” against neighbors who smoke and act against the board to stop the smoking, says Stephen Marcus, a partner at Marcus Errico Emmer & Brooks in Braintree, Mass., and a fellow in CAI’s College of Community Association Lawyers.

Schiller says that tobacco smoke qualifies as a nuisance because it interrupts an owner’s enjoyment of their home. While condominium board members may know that tobacco smoke is dangerous, “they may not understand how dangerous it is, and they don’t understand the fact that they have liability,” she notes.

Liability insurance frequently has pollution exclusions—including tobacco smoke—in its coverage, Schiller adds. “So if there’s a lawsuit and the condominium loses, they have to pay out of their reserves.”

When determining if a no-smoking amendment is the right decision for a community, Ken Jacobs, a partner at Smith Buss & Jacobs in Yonkers, N.Y., explains that it’s important to consider residents’ complaints and the problems regarding secondhand smoke, the potential costs to the association if the building’s HVAC system needs to be revamped, and the latest government and medical studies regarding secondhand smoke.

©2019 Community Associations Institute. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution prohibited.

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