Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Condition of the HOA Construction Industry

This posting almost didn't hit the presses. Every revision sounded like I was either complaining or making excuses. To you, the Community Association professionals who, alas, specialize in fielding complaints and excuses, I knew that track was a non-starter. 

But having gained a reputation for being mildly controversial, and having largely gotten away with it, here's my shot at giving you the state of the construction side of the HOA industry - running the risk of sounding like I'm, well, complaining and making excuses.

Does the following sound familiar?

Contractors are really:
  • Hard to communicate with,
  • Picky and turning down work,
  • Expensive; charging too much.
 Well, there's more truth there than I would like to admit...but there are reasons.
The market is flooded with work. From a pure economics perspective, 2017 placed the liability of demand in the HOA Customer column and the power of limited supply in the Contractor column. When customers are begging for help - at "any cost" - the cost is inevitably going to go up. At the busiest of the summer, I had told customers that there was no way I could get to a job quickly unless I sent technicians on overtime - because the calendar was completely full. ...Time-and-a-half with a 4-hour minimum - APPROVED! Time after time I just shook my head and sent the technician. Many of us pulled back to the corner of work we knew we could do best, and had no choice but to turn down the other work. 
Hard to communicate with - I suspect that there are some who will blame me for this also - though I tried...I really tried. And I know my team, and other great contractors who were doing their best also - and failing.

Why is the market flooded?

  • Heavy rains and leaks last winter backlogged repairs into the spring and summer. The regularly scheduled summer work never had a chance.
  • The economy, in general, is on an upswing and customers are ready to spend money on maintenance.
  • Deferred maintenance is catching up with so many HOAs and, favorable economics or not, the time is NOW to do those repairs.

But the problem isn't limited to the quantity of contractors to hire. Contractors are also facing a shortage - Laborers.
In our far-reaching recruiting, I've had restaurant waiters from Florida responding to employment ads. The demand for construction labor is crazy high. When was the last time you drove into SF? All those buildings rising from the congestion require armies of labor to keep them climbing.

I'll admit, I'm as guilty as the next contractor. It's been hard to honestly keep up with the demand. I hate to turn down work, but at some point - we have to say no, or risk failing you, our beloved customers.

The short-term good news!
  • So far this fall and winter have been reasonably dry. Summer projects naturally fall off as winter approaches, and the bloated summer labor force should be able to start catching up on the backlog.
  • With all the water last winter, it's possible that a majority of undetected leaks were finally addressed, and the leak work-load will be decreased this winter.

That didn't sound too much like complaining - did it?
There are some legitimate reasons for contractors acting like...well, contractors. We, contractors, are an odd variant of human. We need, shall we say, refinement. Many thanks to the customers out there who have been patient and offered those kind and timely admonitions. The partnership is appreciated.

And a Bonus: Interested in the future?
Me too. Here are some parting thoughts:
  • What will be the effect of the North-Bay fires on materials, labor, and architects?  We will not know the true effect until everybody starts to rebuild all at once.  
  • Hurricane Harvey and his conspirators could draw manpower away from California.  
  • Political forces have left many laborers feeling uneasy about working in America.  If that worsens, what might be the consequence to the labor pool?  
  • Also, looming ahead is AB721, the deck structural inspections bill, which is a two-year bill and may be approved.  This bill in its present form would require inspections of 15% of all elevated decks and walkways, requiring an immense amount of destructive testing.  Who will perform all of this work, when we are at full employment, and now every multi-unit development in the state needs to conduct these inspections all at once?

The good news is that we have time to plan.
The HOA industry is poised to be a driver for sociological change in this millennium. Join me - in making it good.

Have a great Holiday Season!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Diffusion of Responsibility

Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death on March 13, 1964. Dozens in her neighborhood are reported to have heard her cries for help - while none responded. Reports of the atrocity prompted psychologists and sociologists to look in depth into what has been referred to as the "Bystander Effect," or more broadly, "Diffusion of Responsibility." Being aptly named, the definitions of these similar concepts are easy to imagine, but some real-life scenarios may define them better:
Just the other day I lingered at the edge of a playground with my infant son as my other children mixed with the mob. Several of us adults hesitated as a mother tried in vain to coax her daughter down a bright green ladder. Unwilling to set my son down into the salad bowl of playground mulch, I sent my teenage daughter to offer assistance. She was just barely preceded by a mother who finally broke from the perimeter and extended a helping hand. Why did at least 8 other adults stand suspended in indecision while a mother struggled?
Or, we've all breezed past a distraught person on the side of a busy road, and thought - why me? 
Or, in a less-obvious scenario - We've all experienced that awkward split second on a crowded elevator when someone else should be pushing the button.
The HOA application may be obvious to you already, but first stick with me for the math. Imagine there are 2 of us and "Problem Dinosaur" is 100% important to us both. I will bear 50% of the responsibility to resolve Problem Dinosaur. Simple math, right? Under these conditions, I will probably decide to help resolve the Dino Dilemma. 
Now, adjust the importance variable. Suppose Problem Dinosaur isn't 100% important to me, because my kid is going through a divorce and I'm 50% distracted. Now, I am still going to bear half of the Dino Problem, but I am only going to bear half of what I perceive the magnitude to be. I am now bearing only 25%. With all due respect - forget about you and your 50% - I'm only thinking about me.
Imagine now that we move the other variable and there are 100 of us facing Problem Dinosaur. Besides the organizational nightmare of coordinating a 100-warrior attack on a single Dinosaur, an inevitable problem will arise...No one will feel much responsibility for dealing with Dino. We all agree that Problem Dinosaur is a 100% problem, but I'm only 1 person out of 100 bearing 1% of the burden of responsibility. In this scenario, I will post vicious comments to Facebook because this is, like, a totally HUGE Dinosaur. But, I won't take meaningful action because "They" should be dealing with the problem. 
So about those HOAs...
The most efficient and effective HOA boards I've worked for are the ones where at least one member has taken personal responsibility for their community. Sometimes this is an old guy was nothing better to do, sometimes it's a young woman who has purchased her first home and determined it's not going to lose value. Whatever the cause, when one person decides they will be responsible - the whole benefits.
Recent newsletters have spoken directly to the deferred maintenance dilemma. It seems clear to me that the current deferred maintenance dilemma facing so many HOAs has its roots, at least partially, in this concept of Diffusion of Responsibility.
Diffusion of Responsibility for the HOA Board of Directors
 While a HOA board of directors is intended to work as a single body, there is no avoiding the fact that each in the group has his or her own personal agendas. Each director will assign a "responsibility value" (Remember Problem Dinosaur?) to themselves repeatedly for each issue and decision. 
This is critical:  The efficiency and effectiveness of that board depends solely on the relationship between each responsibility value and each individual director's personal agenda. There are always at least 2 variables: 
  1. 1.     How important is the problem,
  1. 2.     How important is the problem to me!  
How important the problem is to me will always, to a degree, depend on the diffusion of responsibility.
Diffusion of responsibility can be manifested in both action and inaction, though historically, the case with HOAs is that inaction is the evil subtly excused through diffusion of responsibility.
A new landscape maintenance contract is allowed to sit for another month; delinquencies are not sent to collections; special assessments never get off the ground; siding or deck repair contracts are not solicited, or when solicited lay unsigned. 
Again, remember, each director arrives at the board meeting with his or her own personal agenda. Consider the dilemma of a special assessment to raise funds. Is it even imaginable that a board of directors populated with paycheck-to-paycheck owners will ever get a special assessment or dues increase off the ground? NO! - but WHY?
Why? ... in part, diffusion of responsibility. There are so many other people who can be imagined responsible (The other board members, previous boards, possibly even a list of community managers), that when it comes down to making that hard decision the path of least resistance (do nothing) seems best. And, because so many others share in the responsibility, little to no importance, thus minimal guilt is felt by the individual directors.
I won't be so bold as to say the cause is always abdication, selfishness or arrogance. Other reasons to not get serious include fatigue, busyness, health issues, family stress, insecurity, peer pressure - and the list goes on. But one variable continues to remain to make HOA governance important to the individuals who are tasked with its execution. What will make the problem important to me?
I believe the more we plumb the depths of the relationship between individual and shared or diffused responsibility, the closer we will come to an answer to the deferred maintenance crisis troubling so many HOAs.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Riding the Glacier, With an Amazon Delusion

What's the difference between a government which exists in perpetual partisan gridlock, and AmazonPrime which can deliver a park bench to my front door tomorrow?

Tons of Liability insurance? - Probably
Smarter people? - Likely
Desire? - You bet

I joined AmazonPrime because it made a whole lot of sense. My family orders everything - shoes, tools, jewelry, headphones, vitamins, furniture, clothes, coloring books, and baby food on Amazon. In the 21st century, finding a brown cardboard box on the front porch every day and knowing the UPS driver by her first name is normal. 

Browsing the Sears catalog is not. 

I thought of this comparison as I tried to make sense of a particularly difficult homeowner in the middle of a kitchen water loss renovation. I don't have space here to elaborate on the delays which nudged this owner of already questionable mental stability even closer to the brink. Sewer leak, bad advice, slow response, stubborn resistance, insurance dispute, board apathy, busy vendors - need I go on? By the time this owner was presented with a plan for repairs to their stripped kitchen, they were demanding their pound of flesh - and they weren't exactly being nice about it.

I was called to help and was up to my eyeballs before I realized I was in the swamp with crocodiles. It wasn't long before I wanted out - you know? Months passed as no kitchen materialized. As decisions were metered out, I felt sorry for the owners, even though I routinely checked my truck for IED's before pulling away from their townhome. 

And then, as construction finally began, the harried homeowners obsessed and anticipated each step in the process as if it should be delivered by a Fed Ex driver. That's what made me think of AMAZON.

The owners imagined:
Order cabinets, place in cart, choose next day shipping.
Select granite, place in cart, choose next day shipping.
Select flooring - you get the idea...
If you've ever been within a hundred miles of a kitchen remodel you know this is a ridiculous concept - but to be fair, they had been riding the glacier of HOA politics and were ready for some action.

So here's the contrast...A rising cultural expectation of immediate gratification vs. the tortuous path from problem to resolution in HOA-Land.

I know you've experienced the helpless feeling too. Telling a homeowner that, what should be a very simply resolved issue, won't even be discussed until the quarterly board meeting. I don't want to come across as naive'. I understand the need for process and protocol to beat back chaos and anarchy. But set aside the fact that, yes, they should have read the CC&Rs before buying that condo and embrace the possibility that there is a better way.

I said, "there is a better way" with confidence, and even from this side of the computer screen I sensed a flicker of hope as you imagined I had found the holy grail. And there is a better way but - let's face it - we're still looking for it. And we must continue to look for it or go mad.

Davis-Stirling predates the iPad, smartphones, and Amazon. In previous posts, I described the outdated construction methods that went into building many condos and townhomes. Granted, Davis-Stirling may not have been grossly defective like some of those buildings, but what's being done to bring outdated HOA governance into the 21st century?

Like in construction, some processes just take time. But just like construction is taking technological leaps forward, so can HOA governance, and I would love to create some dialogue in the following newsletters to get your thoughts. Here are just a few ideas to ponder:
Professional boards are probably a bad idea - right? Or are they? Is there another way to incentivize board participation?

Board decisions without an official meeting are bad - right? Or are they? What if there was an app...?

Vendor checks should only be signed and sent once work has been inspected by a committee member - right? Or should they? What if there was an escrow account that paid vendors timely, but at the same time, a Bond to hold them accountable?

I know you have some great ideas, and critiques of mine. Let's have 'em

Friday, May 26, 2017

Why Did They Build These Buildings So Crummy?

"Thanks for saying what we can't say," seems to be the theme in most responses I get to recent posts.

You're welcome... I guess.

It's just unfortunate that issues like poor planning and reckless decision-making lurk like untouchable elephants-in-the-room at HOA board meetings. It's hard to tell people - "Hey, this's your fault." 
So, in this Newsletter - something that's not "your fault." You can print this one with confidence and hand it out at the next board meeting. Because it's not your fault -  it's not the board's fault - It' fault! Ok, so not necessarily mine specifically, but it's the fault of many in my industry. Here's why:

HOA construction boomed in the 1970's and 1980's. Before 1965, there were an estimated 500 CID communities nationwide. By 1970 that number had climbed to 10,000. Today the estimate is well over 250,000 with more than 50,000 of them in California alone. Don't miss it - that's a MASSIVE increase in 40 years. 

A logical question is of course, why the Boom? Good question.
Hang on - we're going to do history in hyper speed and I'm going to condense 100's of pages of legislation into less than 200 words

Cause: 1978 Prop 13 sucked money out of municipal coffers by rolling back and lowering property taxes.
Effect: Municipalities were looking for ways to get more income and take on less responsibility.

Cause: Developers were getting pressured by the market to make housing options more affordable as land and construction costs climbed.
Effect: High-density communities with "common" elements such as roofs, driveways, and interior walls became more desirable.

Cause: Clean Water Act of 1977 - New housing developments must not create a significant change in water flow to nearby properties. 
As developers began designing means of catching and controlling the runoff water - they were faced with a dilemma - who would pay to maintain the drain inlets, ponds, and collection structures? 
Effect: CID's (HOA's) were established to manage these water collection elements.

Cause: Cities short on cash needed more tax revenue while available land was being used up.
Effect: High-density ownership (Not rental) was strongly encouraged, and developers building these communities had an open door at the planning department.

Ok, so that was the civic and social environment which caused the boom. Now - what happened to the make the buildings they built - SO CRUMMY?

Think about who was swinging hammers in the 1980's...20-year-olds... who had been experimenting with altering their mental state in the 1960's.
Just kidding - sort of.

It actually wasn't that experimenting that had the most impact (in my opinion), it was another set of experiments. In the 1970's and 1980's the federal government cracked down on 3 things specifically: Lead paint, Asbestos, and "un"clean air/water. The 1970's Clean Air Act, and the banning of asbestos and lead paint in 1978 bore the essence of the Law of Unintended Consequences. A cascade of industries, processes, products, and methods that had been developing since the dawn of the industrial revolution slammed into a hastily erected wall of legislation and regulation. Hold your fire...I'm not saying I wish lead and asbestos were still contaminating our homes - that's not my point.

Here's the point - And it's ALL IMPORTANT! 
In the 1970's and 1980's when multi-family construction was exploding - engineers, architects, and contractors were EXPERIMENTING with new products and processes because many of the old ones were now illegal. Lead paint was REALLY EFFECTIVE paint - but kids were dying. Replacement products had to be developed. So, the experimenting continued and into the 1990's many of the methods developed under dubious conditions became doctrinaire and were incorporated largely unchallenged. And then as I described in The 50-year problem, their failures began to manifest.

In the 1970's under-slab copper plumbing lines were often run unprotected through concrete slabs. The failure of these lines is alone a parable of construction defect. 

In the 70's and 80's aluminum framed windows came into their own - with condensation and leak issues all their own.

But probably most impactful, in the 1950's a new product hit the mainstream - Caulk in a Tube. By the 1960's latex and acrylic latex caulks were flowing out of the DAP labs. And then in the 1980's - silicone caulk. The effect of the introduction of caulk on the construction industry cannot be underestimated. It doesn't take too vivid an imagination to figure out what happens to the craftsmanship behind waterproofing systems, wood joints, window installations, and concrete joints when you have a simple and cost effective construction-grade band-aid. Imagine what happens to craftsmanship when you add a tube of caulk to the carpenter's bag of tools.

Granted, for some problems, various caulks have proven an invaluable solution. But in its early years, distributed widely to an industry seeking ways to cut cost and streamline processes, it was like handing out cocaine and saying, "use sparingly." And it wasn't just that the quality of the early caulk products was poor (and it was), it was that architects and engineers began making assumptions about what could be waterproofed and sealed with the stuff. It was integrated into already dubious building systems and the effects today are disappointing at best.

It's not your fault. I hope this helps.
But, your role in resolving the problems of the past actually is your responsibility, and failure to apply knowledge - will be your fault. Understanding the political and economic environment that created many of the problems of today, is a key to moving forward wisely. Plan ahead. Build up reserves. Hire contractors, engineers, and consultants that understand the history and can help you prepare for the future.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The 50-Year Problem - Part 2

In the 50-year Problem Part 1, The Renter Mentality, we explored the renter-like inclination of HOA owners to offload or defer the responsibilities of homeownership to someone else. Here we will fully realize why that's a 
really bad idea.
A. The 30-year reserve study
Humans are remarkably horrible at budgeting and planning ahead. Dean Buonomano Ph.D. posted Temporal Myopia: Making Bad Long-term Decisions to the Psychology Today blog. In it, he described the "I give you $100 now, or $120 if you'll wait a month" experiment. You can read it here for yourself, but in a nutshell, people chose a $100 gift far more often than the impressive 20% investment gain available by waiting a mere month. 
The takeaway: Typical humans don't make wise decisions in a long-term consequence vs. short term gain dilemma. 
But no matter what you think about the logic of accepting $100 now versus waiting a month for $120, it is utterly unthinkable that anyone would wait a month - even for $10,000 - if that person knew they couldn't be around in a month to collect. No sane person would ever invest in something they had almost zero chance to benefit from.
The takeaway: We're not stupid. If there is no chance of future gain, of course we'll grab ours now.
And yet the modern CID is organized as if the 2 Take-aways above don't apply to it. A disturbingly large percentage of HOAs in their 4th and 5th decade, have been victims of these two concepts.
First, corporate decisions are often made with expediency as the highest motive.
  • Let's keep dues low and never pass a special assessment, to keep more cash in my pocket right now.
  • Let's get this board meeting over (or I've skipped it altogether) so I can watch the game - while crucial decisions are delayed until next month.
  • Let's look for a new/cheaper management company that doesn't expect so much from the directors.

The list of ways humans sacrifice future benefits on an altar of expediency is endless - as with individuals, so it goes with HOAs and board members.
Second, if my condo is a starter home, or I'm retired on a fixed income, or for whatever reason doubt I will be around to benefit - no matter what the future gains to the HOA - I won't buy-in. Why would I agree to commit tens of thousands of my hard-earned dollars to a special assessment or increased dues which will largely benefit the next set of homeowners? (And this presumes I have the available cash with which to get behind the assessment or increase anyway)
In 1985, recognizing these weaknesses, the state of California integrated the "30-year reserve study" into the Davis-Sterling Act, requiring homeowners associations to set aside reserves for future maintenance expenses. While well-intentioned, and probably better than nothing, the reserve study portion fell short of being truly impactful. The 2013 DSA update clarified some details but still failed to give the reserve study real teeth. Predictably many homeowners associations are content to implement the bare minimums while ignoring the true intent - reserving enough cash to perform preventive maintenance and executing repairs as soon as they are needed. 
But worse than encouraging contentment with sub-mediocrity, easy compliance has engendered a crippling consequence; Many communities now have an "Emperor's New Cloak" of compliance to cover their failure to adequately plan ahead. They are very literally - exposed.
Many communities are stumbling toward a mid-life crisis, oblivious to metastasizing cancer just below the surface... taking yearly drags on their 30-year reserve study.
B. The 50-year time bomb
The 50-year Time Bomb - Q&A
Q - So what do short-sighted board members do when they see a complicated reserve study and a growing list of deteriorating assets? (sometimes literally growing - with mushrooms)
A - They hire a handyman to put more caulk around the windows, and tell the manager to solicit a different reserve study.
Q - What do they do when a construction manager reviews the community and tells them that they need to spend $2,000,0000 to get the community back on track?
A - They toss the construction manager and continue whacking moles.
Q - What do you do when foundations, elevator shafts, and other elements not represented in the reserve study, with a life-span in excess of 30 years, fail catastrophically in year 40?
A - No good answer.
Q - How long does it take for a tree, 20 feet from the building, to grow roots large enough to compromise the French drains, the patios, and the foundations?
A - Want to guess?
Q - What do you do as the experiments of the post-lead paint, post-asbestos, EPA-affected 1970's and 1980's systemically fail, and begin to be realized as really bad ideas? (I will go into this in detail next time)
A - You wonder what it is that they are doing right now in construction that our kids will regret in 50 years.
This is not intended as a critique of the reserve study, a condemnation of board members, or a general criticism of the industry at large; what is intended here is something not unlike the orange flag of the highway construction flagman warning you to slow because you are too quickly approaching a narrow and hazardous place - where a cement truck just might back into your lane.
Like most sociological issues, the problems in The Great Sociological Experiment we call the HOA, lie with human nature itself.  Therefore, as in all sociological advances, it's going to take maturity and innovation to outsmart human nature here too and successfully incentivize and implement lasting change.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The 50-Year-Problem Part 1 - The Renter Mentality

In Defining the Problem, I described the difficult and frustrating position in which many common interest developments find themselves - facing snowballing maintenance costs with no cash. Here in The 50-Year Problem, I'll begin to explore why much of the problem was naively and neglectfully overlooked.

In The 50-Year Problem I'll touch on three points:
The renter mentality
The 30-year reserve study
The 50-year time bomb

Here, we'll only cover Part 1. 

Part 1 - The Renter Mentality
In a condo conversion, apartments are transformed into condos with the wave of a magic wand.  This conversion is a convenient case study for understanding the renter mentality within many HOAs. In the study, we glimpse the differences between the mindset of the old investor (singular) and the new investors (plural).

Now, when I say "renter mentality", I don't mean that HOA members actually think they are paying rent. Nor do I suggest that they don't understand that they bear some responsibility as an owner, though as I will show below, many owners within an HOA will fail to grasp their long-term responsibilities to the corporation. Also, I will not be discussing the often criticized member who calls management when the toilet clogs or the disposal jams. That is indeed an annoyance, but it is only an acute symptom of the renter mentality; a symptom which often goes away, while the underlying mentality remains. So let's take a look.

As an apartment, a single investor or set of investors was dedicated to the upkeep and management of the community. The regime was totalitarian but efficient. Maintenance of the whole property was guided by an asset preservation model. The individual tenants relied on the manager and owner to maintain the asset, while future profits and raw economics motivated the investor to do so. The siding was replaced because the value of the asset dropped as rot increased. The singular nature of the investor or group of investors was the key. One entity called the shots. 

As a condominium, the politics change. No longer a dictatorship, the new entity is assumed to operate something like a democracy or republic. In truth, it will likely lurch and grind under its own weight and an oligarchy will emerge. The democratic ideal will remain as each owner has a vote, but apathy will inevitably and disproportionately empower a few. 

So how does this create a renter mentality? In this way: As in the apartment model the uninterested tenants are relying on the "few" to maintain the asset, so likewise in the HOA, the apathetic owner assumes that someone else is looking toward the future and making decisions that will benefit him and his piece of the investment. Even the Board Member making decisions finds it easy to offload the responsibility of his decisions to the group. In each instance, the individual is assuming that the true burden of responsibility lies on someone or something else. 

Sociology textbooks are jammed with examples of just this scenario: A visible problem sits ignored because each believes another is responsible.

But let's go back to those few, the oligarchy set up to be responsible. Is the oligarchy qualified to manage the asset? Did they join forces because they desired to manage this investment? Is the asset management their passion or priority?
The answer is obviously, across the board, no.
Qualified - Only possibly if they are by some chance already in that line of work.
Join forces for this purpose - No, they were looking for a home they could afford and enjoy.
Passion or Priority - Not at all, they were more than likely annoyed when they realized that there were expectations attached to the purchase of the property.

Does this mean the project is doomed? Of course not, some HOA's thrive, but it does represent a systemic liability in the design.

Now, briefly return to the Apartment vs. HOA illustration and consider the massive pressure of living in proximity to the people your decisions affect. Contrast the investor with the board member:
The investor has considerable positive peer pressure to commit financial resources to the maintenance of the investment, while the board member has considerable negative peer pressure to commit financial resources toward maintenance of the investments. The investor's peer group (other investors like her) supports her decisions to fund maintenance and renovation. The board member's peer group (Her neighbors on a paycheck-to-paycheck budget) will rarely support her efforts to raise funds for anything.

"Why exactly are you raising our monthly dues? Isn't there a cheaper management company out there?"

This is getting long and we're out of peanuts, so I'll try and land the plane. How is this part of the 50-year problem? Because we each only have a certain amount of bandwidth. Our days are full and our calendars jammed. We are adults, we can be responsible; but responsible about something 50 years in the future which I'm only 1/100 responsible for? That's pushing it. Give me a responsibility with ramifications next week and you'll get my best. Responsibility with ramifications in 10 years, that's likely headed for the back burner. Responsibility with ramifications in 50 years and I'm only 1/100 responsible for the outcome? - you've got to be kidding me.

But folks, that's where we are. Those back-burnered and ignored responsibilities of the original owners and their descendants are like chickens coming home to roost. We are facing the results of a 50-year-problem. 
Question - Will we be part of the solution, or simply perpetuate?

In the next post I'll address the 30-Year Reserve Study, and if I can be concise, The 50-Year Time Bomb also. Following that we'll start talking nuts and bolts (literally), and sort out "Why Did They Build These Buildings So Crummy Anyway?"