Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Special "Extreme Makeover, Home Edition" issue of my housing co-op newsletter

(Photos are of investigative reporters Jane and Mena Stillwater checking out a leaking roof and a faulty irrigation system at Savo Island)

Whatever happened to "Desperate Housewives"? I guess it was a victim of the writers' strike. I liked "Desperate Housewives". But I never liked watching the program that came on before it. "Extreme Makeover, Home Edition". At least I never liked it until now.

Now I watch it with complete and utter fascination. Why? Because the housing co-op where I live is about to get an extreme makeover too! Yes, the re-hab that our Board of Directors' majority alliance has been zealously stalling off for the last seven years is finally about to happen! Will host Ty Pennington show up at Savo Island with his famous "Good Morning!" wake-up call? Why not? The Stillwaters are a deserving family. I want my home to get transformed!

"But Jane," you might say, "it sounds to me like you are back to hatin' on that poor Board of Directors alliance again. Why is that? They've done everything they can to make this re-hab happen. You think not? Just ask them." Yeah, well. Actions speak louder than words. Since when does it take seven years to get a re-hab off the ground?

And if the Board alliance didn't deliberately stall this re-hab on purpose, then they must be the most incompetent people this side of the White House --where even as we speak GWB is still trying to get Iraqis to just shut up and give him their oil after all these years, spending approximately three trillion dollars on Iraq's "re-hab," taking longer than World War II and still being no closer to shouting "Move the Bus!" than he was back in 2003.

The other day I was looking at a worksheet that listed what the estimated costs of the Savo re-hab would have been back in 2005. Then I compared it to a worksheet listing our estimated costs now. There has been approximately a three-million-dollar cost increase, due mainly to inflation. That means that every single member of the Board alliance who has been responsible for stalling (or fumbling) this re-hab has cost my co-op approximately $360,00 each. Thanks, guys.

Getting the re-hab started by September 2008 is an absolute imperative. I don't think this housing project can survive yet another winter without floating down the drain. Almost every unit in the project has had at least one leak this year. There are blue tarps on several of the roofs -- the kind that they used after Hurricane Katrina. Shingles are falling off the walls, shingles are falling off the roofs and the drainage and irrigation systems suck eggs -- not to mention the lack of effective maintenance inside the units themselves.

However, this is, hopefully, all about to change! In just six more months, if we are lucky, our "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" will finally begin -- by September of 2008. And once it gets started, I have been told that things will go quickly -- perhaps not in the seven days that it takes Ty Pennington's crew, but still and all....

The roofing and siding will go up rapidly and we'll have it all in place by the end of November. The window installation will take only a day or two per unit so we will only have crews inside our homes for a very short time (I've been told that our latest contractor is very good with working with families and not displacing them more than is absolutely necessary). And it will take two months maximum to slap on the roofs. The water heaters and finances can be replaced in approximately five hours per household. Go us! And, if all goes well, by July of 2009 we will finally be able to shout, "Move the bus!"

On the TV show, Ty talks about building eco-friendly homes. "This season expect to see more extreme homes, the latest in extreme technology -- highlighted by an all 'green' build in Arizona. And there will be a green element on every episode this season, with eco-friendly, low energy and recyclable sources being incorporated into the builds." Is Savo island going to get any 'green' elements? Heck no. In fact, the Board alliance went out of their way to avoid cost-effective, energy-saving siding in favor of 'real' cedar shingles that entail cutting down a whole bunch of trees -- and costing us more money too. And will we be getting those energy-saving solar panels that I begged for? What do you think?

If we had elected a forward-looking Board back in 2001, we could have changed Savo into a showcase for what eco-friendly homes could be. We had the money. We had the technology. Imagine what we could have done with that three million dollars that inflation just ate! Now our heating bills are skyrocketing and we're stuck with gas heating. If only.... If only the alliance had concentrated on future possibilities instead of on consolidating their power, keeping their market-rate rents low and hatin' on ME.

After apparently stalling the re-hab for approximately seven years, however, even I have got to admit that the Board alliance is finally becoming enthusiastic about getting this re-hab done. Why the sudden change in their attitude? We may never know. Perhaps it was because some of them are now receiving HUD subsidies and no longer mind that the market-rate rents will go up to help pay for the re-hab? Or could it be because of the stern lectures they have just received from HUD? Or maybe it was caused by the three (3) fair housing lawsuits filed against them? Or maybe it's just the "monkeys with typewriters" effect -- that sooner or later it was going to happen anyway?

In any case, the Board alliance's attitude toward ME hasn't changed. Not only are they still hell-bent on covering over my wonderful light-giving window, they are apparently trying to do everything they can to keep me from moving to a downstairs unit, which I desperately need because of my bad ankle and knees. Sorry, guys. HUD says you gotta do this, even if it involves helping me. And, yes, it IS illegal for you to keep trying to dig into my medical records and files. Sorry about that one too.

But worst of all, at the last Board meeting, one of the alliance members actually cited an out-of-date and illegal house rule that would have forced my two-month-old granddaughter and her parents to become homeless and out on the street if he had gotten his way. That's taking vengeance on me for being a whistle-blower a little too far, don't you think? I guess that they REALLY don't like me.

But all's well that ends well. The re-hab is coming, I'm moving into a smaller downstairs unit within a month and 57 deserving families will be getting an "Extreme Makeover, Home Edition" in the next year and a half. Plus Board-member elections are coming up soon and then we'll have a whole new chance to do an extreme makeover on our three-million-dollar Board alliance.

"Move the bus!"

PS: At the Board meeting last night, I was told on no uncertain terms that I had to shingle over my window even though my HUD appeal is still being considered by the Fair Housing arbitrator in Washington. I was also told that I was a liar, that my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter DID NOT live with me even though I can hear baby Mena crying in the next room even at this moment, that I couldn't move into a downstairs medical accommodation unit until I had shingled over my window, that I should be evicted, that they want to go through my medical files -- which is illegal -- and I forget what other things they said to me last night but most of it involved yelling at me and pounding on the table a lot.

In the past, other members of this alliance have moved out of their units due to medical accommodation needs but were not asked to repair the damage to their old units before they left. That's totally discriminatory! And also an alliance member's relative was allowed to stay in her unit this month even though she was over-housed according to HUD standards because said relative had claimed to have moved a roommate in. But said roommate was never approved by the Board. "We have to approve EVERY new person that moves in!" these Board alliance members are always telling us -- except, apparently, if the situation applies to them.