What Will $50 Billion In Borrowed Dollars Do About Draconian Zoning Laws?


Yesterday the House passed a $50 billion Sandy relief package that will be added to the deficit. It’s all borrowed money. On top of all of the money they’re already borrowing, in our names. There was no addressing one of the biggest obstacles keeping affected homeowners from rebuilding – the government. Months after the storm has passed people are no closer to getting their homes back because of FEMA and draconian zoning laws. But they’re still paying property taxes.

Roger Kimball wrote about his experience that would have made Kafka blush in The Wall Street Journal.

Yet it wasn’t until the workmen we hired had ripped apart most of the first floor that the phrase “building permit” first wafted past us. Turns out we needed one. “What, to repair our own house we need a building permit?”

Of course.

Before you could get a building permit, however, you had to be approved by the Zoning Authority. And Zoning—citing FEMA regulations—would force you to bring the house “up to code,” which in many cases meant elevating the house by several feet. Now, elevating your house is very expensive and time consuming—not because of the actual raising, which takes just a day or two, but because of the required permits.

Kafka would have liked the zoning folks. There also is a limit on how high in the sky your house can be. That calculation seems to be a state secret, but it can easily happen that raising your house violates the height requirement. Which means that you can’t raise the house that you must raise if you want to repair it. Got that?

There were other surprises. A woman in our neighborhood has two adjoining properties, with a house and a cottage. She rents the house and lives in the cottage. For 29 years she has paid taxes on both. The cottage was severely damaged but she can’t tear it down and rebuild because Zoning says the plots are not zoned for two structures, never mind that for 29 years two property-tax payments were gladly accepted.

Read the whole thing, it gets worse. For some reason FEMA required proof of income, so they sent their tax returns. But FEMA wanted pay stubs. Kimball’s wife is a freelance writer, so she doesn’t receive regular paychecks. Too bad for her.

But we’ll just throw more money around, never getting to the root of the problem, all the while the politicians will pat themselves on the backs for “doing something.”