Condos: American Local Governance in a Nutshell

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In the middle of the night on June 24, a building in Surfside, Florida, collapsed, destroying 55 of the complex’s 136 units. At least 50 people are known to have died in the collapse, and over 100 people are still unaccounted for.

This tragic event will most likely turn out to be the deadliest building accident in United States history; our hearts go out to the families of those who have been injured, killed, or who remain missing.

This week on Upzoned, host Abby Kinney and Strong Towns Senior Editor Daniel Herriges discuss the larger problem that the disaster in Surfside points to: the fact that the American condominium experiment began 60 years ago, and many condos are now reaching the end of their first maintenance life cycle. The hard truth is that condo owner associations are often not adequately prepared for the cost of this maintenance, especially when it gets deferred for several decades.

The situation is laid out in a recent Slate article: “Condos Are in Uncharted Territory.” Abby and Daniel “upzone” this piece—i.e., they look at it through the Strong Towns lens, to see how condo boards can be viewed as American local governance, in a nutshell.

Then, in the downzone, Daniel is reading about how people band together in the face of disaster, and Abby has discovered a nice little urban oasis.

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