Notes on the state of things

Notes on the state of things

Pittsburgh City Council is considering ways of “incentivizing city residents to convert their garages, attics or basements into rental spaces” as “one way” to “combat the need for more affordable housing,” reports the Post-Gazette.

A council resolution “calls on the city’s departments of Planning and Permits, Licenses and Inspections to compile a report that includes how many accessory dwelling units” — or “ADUs,” as they apparently are called — ‘’already exist in Pittsburgh, what the regulations are, average rents for the units, the number of potential lots where these could be built, and common characteristics of these units.”

Continues the P-G story:

“The report should also include incentives that the city could offer people to add some of these units to their homes. This could possibly include the waiving of permit fees and pre-approved design plans that would streamline the permitting process for people who choose to use those.”

There’s no mention of direct taxpayer subsidies – in these cases – but we can’t imagine they are not far behind.

And City Council also is asking that the departments provide information on regulatory changes that could be made to encourage the development of ADUs like removing or changing parking requirements and alterations to the size of eligible lots.”

While this might strike many, if not most, as a great move – what’s not to applaud about cutting red tape and all that – this scrivener is forced to retort that this is none of government’s business in the first place.

Invariably, such efforts are seen as the government’s answer to increase the stock of “affordable housing” because of the free market’s “failure” to do so.

And just as invariably, these altruistic efforts tend to create only more red tape and even less “affordable housing” — while picking the taxpayers’ pockets.

If anybody wants to convert a garage, attic or basement into living quarters, that should be their business and their business alone.

Period.

And it should be at their expense and their expense alone.

Exclamation point.

Sometimes we just have to chuckle:

The same Post-Gazette that was such an ardent supporter of taxpayer-funded sports stadiums and arenas now is calling it “scandalous” – scandalous, it bellows – that the Pittsburgh Penguins-led redevelopment of the old Civic Arena site has largely languished now for a decade.

“The enormous scar left by Civic Arena’s demolition continues to embarrass the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Hill District and the entire city,” a Wednesday P-G editorial proclaims. “In fact, it’s downright scandalous, and needs an independent investigation by the City Controller’s office. The public needs and deserves a full accounting of this spectacular failure. “

Continues the scathing denouncement:

“At best, the Penguins have been an untrustworthy partner in developing this valuable and historic publicly owned land between Downtown and the Hill District. Despite that, it’s too late — even if the law would permit it — to strip the team of its development rights, without incurring even more delays.”

Well, golly gee-whiz.

Had the Penguins, heavily publicly subsidized in their new hockey arena — remember, public gambling proceeds are being used to help pay for it – not been given such a sweetheart development deal in the first place, we have little doubt that the site would already have been developed in a competitively bid, open and free marketplace.

The P-G snaps its braces in questioning “who might be benefitting from leaving this prime land fallow. Maybe an independent investigation could answer them.” 

But the real question should be why so many, including the P-G, gave their stamp of approval years ago to this kind of malarkey that only emboldens government-knows-best types and their corporate acolytes to continually ply their dubious central-planning schemes.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).