It’s My Property, I Can Do What I Want To

Oh boy, some dude over at Kim’s place is bitching because he has to get a permit to put in a pool in his yard and no blankety-blank government should interfere with what is happening on his property. Well, it’s an interesting argument. Houston is rather notorious for it’s lack of building codes. In fact, buying homes outside of certain communities can put a person in a precarious living situation. The downside is possible death by burning due to faulty wiring, foundation shifting and building collapse, or drowning due to flooding. Well, that last one is less likely because there are no basements. Most likely, everything and everyone will just get really wet.

I live in a planned community where there are codes and rules. Out of state friends have snorted in derision at my snobbiness and then I point out that I know people who live in the country and down the street from their lovely five acres, a land-fill is going in. Nice. Oh, and next door, their neighbors have their toilet plumbed to a hole in the ground. That tends to knock the edges off a person’s home value.

On the upside, housing in Houston is cheaper and Houston is not suffering the disastrous loss in home values that other places are experiencing.

In heavily restricted states and cities, like in New York, for example, it could be argued that the tight codes have contributed to inflated home prices. This article is from 1999 but the principles still hold:

Another recent report examined why prices are so high. Conducted by New York University for the city and the New York City Partnership, it found that because of corruption, outdated regulations and higher labor and material costs, residential construction in the five boroughs is the most expensive in America. Those hurdles stop many projects, further squeezing the market and driving up prices.

This study said the city can spur housing development by revising building codes and zoning regulations and by freeing up more city-owned land. The city also could waive or reduce permit fees for new projects and revise the tax structure so vacant land is taxed at a higher rate, while providing breaks for new multifamily housing.

Somewhere between safety and responsibility to the next owner and freedom to what you damn well please, there’s a balance.

Cross-posted at Dr. Melissa Clouthier

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