Uncapped HOA Fees are Driving People into Homelessness

HOA fees and homelessness

Discover the shocking truth behind why almost 80% of new housing includes uncapped HOA fees, driving people into homelessness. From skyrocketing costs to unexpected assessments, learn how this crisis is unfolding and what actions we must take to make housing a human right for all.


Why is Almost 80% of New Housing HOA?

Learn how uncapped HOA fees feed the affordability crisis and what we need to do about it.

The grass at an HOA property might be meticulously landscaped, but that doesn’t mean it’s greener.

“I was moving. I was saying I’m out of here,” said Dennis James, an 80-year-old Floridian who was recently astonished when his townhome’s Homeownership Association fees skyrocketed by 300% in just under two years.

In a recent interview with WKMG News 6 Click Orlando reporters, James joined many angered townhome residents in the Florida-based Baldwin Park properties. A controversial move proposed by Baldwin Park property owners could mean that residents in this upscale condo community will wind up paying a jaw-dropping $1,222 per month in condo fees in addition to their monthly mortgage payments. That price is comparable to the average US rental rate for a one-bedroom apartment.

The difference here is that this is what HOA property owners are shelling out for things like the basic maintenance of shared amenities and communal spaces. The additional fee gets tacked on top of the general mortgage. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a reasonably priced fee or that it isn’t subject to drastically increase at a moment’s notice.

In 2022, James said he paid just $424 monthly for HOA. Now, those fees are set to triple, which could mean more homelessness for condo residents and townhome owners alike.

This dire situation has left many considering heading for the hills, but therein lies a much bigger problem. There is no place left for them to go.

Home Ownership Association Fees Are on the Rise Across the Country with No Caps in Sight

All across the country, there is no shortage of HOA horror stories. HOA fees in Minnesota, for example, have spiked at unfathomable rates. One corporation called it an “industry-wide trend” and complained that insurance companies are “dictating the market” and Minnesota home management companies’ hands are tied.

In some regions of Colorado, condo fees have more than doubled, creating what attorney Molly Foley-Healy claims is the biggest HOA crisis to hit the region in 17 years.

And it isn’t just the monthly dues that are threatening to drive residents into homelessness in droves either. Perhaps more burdensome are the unexpected and often ridiculously expensive special assessments.

In the Pennsylvania section of the Neighborly app, a condo resident named Eloise Boccella spoke franticly of an unexpected special assessment at the Strathaven Condominiums that would cost $60,000 per resident over a four-year timeframe.

In the post, this resident mentioned having an acute lack of understanding of the situation and added that it posed a financial hardship. She is not alone. A special assessment conducted at a Miami-based condominium community hit homeowners with a whopping $175,000 assessment fee for recertification. This is not a collective price. That is the per-person fee presented by the property managers.

Residents speaking candidly with reporters from CBS News expressed grave concern at the possibility of being driven into homelessness as a result.

“What worries me is that I won’t have a roof over my head,” exclaimed Florida resident Rufina Cappelli in an interview with WFLA News Channel 8, where she described the jolting experience of watching her HOA fees spike by double digits.

Like many residents adversely affected by the sudden nationwide increase in HOA fees, Cappelli is a senior citizen surviving on a fixed income. She cannot realistically afford to sell her condo. However, she is being priced out and pushed over the edge. The vicious cycle continues as property management corporations blame insurance companies, insurance companies blame the economy, and the homeowners themselves wind up stranded with the tab.

What Exactly Are HOA Fees, and Why Is There No Cap on Increasing Them?

Homeowners Association Fees, or HOA fees for short, are additional payments made by homeowners living in gated communities or townhome complexes. They are generally used to upkeep the grounds and common areas, including actions such as:

  • Building maintenance
  • Landscaping
  • Maintaining common areas like hallways, lobbies, and sidewalks
  • Amenity upkeep in communities with pools, gyms, internet cafes, business rooms, on-site security, etc.
  • Insuring those common areas listed above

While laws vary from state to state, the sad truth is that most places do not have a firm cap on HOA fees, which can skyrocket without notice. Homeowners who can’t foot the tab might experience all of the following issues:

  • Collections
  • Legal actions
  • Losing access to communal spaces
  • Liens
  • Late fees
  • Court fees
  • Eventual foreclosure and subsequent homelessness

HOA Fees Are Notoriously Linked to Homelessness, yet 80% of all New Housing Includes Them

According to Bloomberg, 80% of all new housing is built as an HOA, which is pretty terrifying given that uncapped HOA fees are driving people into homelessness in droves.

For people who purchase townhomes and condominiums, HOA fees are not optional. They are part of the increasingly more expensive package. 

Right now, the only way to avoid them is to opt not to buy an HOA-associated property. Given the current construction climate, this soon won’t be an option either. This unsettling trend raises a bold and previously overlooked question: Are modern architects complicit in the raging homeless crisis?

Talk To Your Legislators About Making Housing a Human Right

Renters and homeowners alike are experiencing an affordability crisis that is putting us all at risk of homelessness.

Clearly, we cannot plea bargain with corporate real estate investors who are raising rents at four times the median wage rate. It is also clear that even in newly constructed housing, there is no way to convince modern builders to construct adequately sized affordable homes when pricey projects that exclude low and middle-income earners continue taking priority.

It is high time we fight this battle on a political level by demanding housing as a human right for all.


Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith

     

Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

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