Monday, October 25, 2010

When the little interferences seem large 

On Wednesday we are breaking ground on a rather significant renovation of my house here in Princeton which, in the end, will result in no additional square footage. Nevertheless, in order to get a permit from the borough I have to pay a $880 "construction fee" and a separate $171 "affordable housing fee." Affordable housing fee? Only a liberal could say that with a straight face. Here I am with my own little stimulus program, a construction project that will in the end cost significantly more than the average single family home in the United States and yet add nothing to the footprint of my house nor alter the appearance of its exterior, and the local government insists I pay it more than $1000 for the permission to hire many people to do this work on my own property. Not only does the "affordable housing fee" vex me as a matter of principle, but by making my house more expensive to renovate I will have less money to spend on stuff to go in it.

The government's little interferences are a lot more annoying when the really large ones have already sapped us of, well, our animal spirits. I respectfully submit that these little troubles on top of the big ones, in many different forms and shapes, fuel the new populist opposition to intrusive government with a conviction that no politician or pundit can supply on his or her own.


By Blogger JPMcT, at Mon Oct 25, 11:50:00 PM:

Just got back a couple of weeks ago from the American College of Surgeon's Annual Congress in Washington, DC. I usually go when it's in San Fran, but I needed a CME credit boost, so I rode up Rt. 95.

The hotel quoted us a "deal" at $260 a night. OK, fine.

When the bill came, tacked on was a $40 per night "Occupancy Tax". Tacked on to the $42 a night to park my car was a $5 "Parking Tax" and, perhaps worst of all, the gift shop charged a 5 cent "bag fee" if you purchased anything that required a plastic bag.

Next time I will hitchike to DC, sleep on the Mall and carry my food around and throw the refuse on the ground.

Actually, I think the Democrats already have that part down pat.  

By Blogger Deuce, at Tue Oct 26, 12:00:00 AM:

Tiger, so much of Princeton has been carved away by the University, tax exempt, you get the privilege of picking up the slack. Probably a small price to pay for lovely walks and the honor of hosting Paul Krugman.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Oct 26, 12:46:00 AM:

Every governmental regulation or mandate is nothing more than a request for bribe. Find out who makes the decision for each permit and offer him 10-25% of the permit amount for a "variance" and see how it goes. You might first, want to find out where the public servant lives and check out his mansion.
Wait, you live in Jersey and don't know this?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Oct 26, 02:27:00 AM:

That is such fun, the painful kind.

To know you are being ripped off by your own Government is the worst.

Don't forget Princeton recently repealed free parking on the streets on Shopping Sundays, crushing the economy in the area even more.

The wealthiest Government in the region, just took more, and what exactly is their service worthy of such expense?  

By Blogger Don Cox, at Tue Oct 26, 05:43:00 AM:

"To know you are being ripped off by your own Government is the worst."

Extracting money from the other citizens has always been the primary activity of governments. Sometimes thery do a bit of useful work too, but the main purpose is to live snugly at others' expense. This goes back to the bronze age, or earlier.

Religions are the same.

If you have any money left after the priest and the tax man have passed by, you are lucky.  

By Anonymous Boludo Tejano, at Tue Oct 26, 06:13:00 AM:

My parents bought an old house and spent over decade in renovations. He and friends put in a cement floor in the second story of part of the house. He spent over a year filling in the floor with metal supports to make sure the cement didn't fall on the kitchen, before putting in the cement. My father did a lot of woodworking himself, including cabinets and some new wood floors. New furnace. Installing fireplaces. Tearing out a stairway. Renovated and new bathrooms. Electrical work. New well. New septic system.

The house was in the country. To the best of my knowledge, he needed no permits for all that, though maybe he did for the septic system.

Different time, different place.  

By Blogger Mr. Bingley, at Tue Oct 26, 07:31:00 AM:

bohica government.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Oct 26, 08:59:00 AM:

Not only does the "affordable housing fee" vex me as a matter of principle....

Clearly, you don't understand. Uncle Sugar and his nephews and nieces know better than you how your money should be spent. Quit your whining, and let your Patricians make those decisions for you.

Eric Hines  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Oct 26, 09:07:00 AM:

The permitting fee is worse than the affordable housing fee, though they both stink to high heaven, since it's a sales tax and therefore explicitly anti-growth.

Having built several additions to my house in the borough I can only say I hope you have a construction guy in good oder with the borough staff. They can make your life miserable, if they choose, or they can be an invisible presence. Believe you me, you want option B.

By the way, if ever you want recommendations on construction people we have several we like to recommend.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Tue Oct 26, 09:11:00 AM:

Last Anon, send me an email at tigerhawkblog@gmail.com and we can trade recommendations...  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Oct 26, 11:01:00 AM:

With my Mom getting on in years, and her having very little income, we decided to convert her detached garage into a living space so I could move in with her and take over her bills and still maintain my privacy. No square footage would be added, the garage already has a complete bathroom. The only thing that really had to be done was close in the garage doors, carpet, and put in a kitchenette.

This isn't acceptible to Wayne County unless I conduct an $1,800.00 renovation to the septic system, dispite the fact that no additonal bathrooms are added, and my presence would raise the occupancy of a 3-bedroom. 3-bath home to 2. This has pushed it out of affordable range for me at the moment. It also cost an electrician, a plumber, & a carpenter work, as well as sales of materials like paint, carpet, fixtures.

The real capper was when this snotty clerk threanted to force us to get the area rezoned for apartment buildings.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Oct 26, 11:28:00 AM:

Wayne County poster, what would the county's response be to a renovation of the garage to a year round workshop/craftsroom/gameroom with a sink?


By Blogger SR, at Tue Oct 26, 12:09:00 PM:

Looks like the goat man could write a book on the subject. TH, I suggest you re-file the permit with an assist by the goatman. Tell'em downtown that it is an affordable closet, and that you some assistance in from the affordable housing fund to finance it.

Compared to you last real estate project, it seems as if this is probably much more "affordable."  

By Blogger Escort81, at Tue Oct 26, 12:46:00 PM:

The concept of a fee for affordable housing is actually somewhat popular in resort towns, which always need young people and others to staff the entry-level jobs that a tourist-based economy requires to provide decent service. In a ski town, distances to the next town can be significant and the public transportation kind of spotty. Not so much in the Garden State.

One wonders where Princeton Borough actually places its "affordable housing" once all the fees are collected.

I think we had a fold-out couch in the living room of our Spelman quad 30 years ago; maybe that would qualify. I think Spelman is too far down campus to be inside the Borough, though.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Oct 26, 03:44:00 PM:

I'd check to see if there's a classification difference between renovation and repairs.

In a lot of places, "repairs" using "like or same materials" don't even need permits.  

By Anonymous Jim Miller, at Tue Oct 26, 10:28:00 PM:

Slightly off topic, but this seems like as good a place as any to mention it.

Paul Krugman has been calling for vastly increased expenditure by the national government. But he has said nothing about his own personal stimulus plan. (And he doesn't strike me as modest enough not to talk about it, if he had one.)

If he -- and others who share his views -- were to spend like he is urging the government to do, they could create quite a stimulus.

It strikes me that, living in Princeton as you do, you may be able to give him better suggestions than I have. (Among mine were buying a Cadillac Escalade and spending a vacation in Las Vegas.)

Given the costs you mention, Krugman can probably do a whole lot of stimulating, with just a few home improvements. And he will probably be pleased to see such a large share going to the government.  

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