by John Holbo on February 15, 2005

Thanks to everyone who bought through Amazon. With tsunami reconstruction funds cash-flush, I ended up donating another $250 (on top of the original $500+) to the Doctors Without Borders general emergency relief fund. Thanks in particular to whoever bought the expensive stuff lately. Although I regret to inform that Amazon capped the commission on the tasty G4 Powerbook at $25. I think you got a pretty good deal anyway. I hope you are happy with your sleek new machine. I’ll give again in a month and a half. Whatever accrues over the quarter.

“Crimogenic” design

by Chris Bertram on February 15, 2005

Reason Magazine “has a long piece attacking New Urbanism”: co-written by an architectural liaison officer with the West Yorkshire Police and someone from the Thoreau Institute. It would be tempting to suggest the Onionesque headline:

bq. Libertarians: “World would be better if designed by the police.”

Laurence Aurbach has “a detailed rebuttal on the City Comforts site”: .

Habitat for Humanity

by Belle Waring on February 15, 2005

This is an interesting Washington Post article about how rising property values have hurt homeowners who bought their homes through Habitat for Humanity.

Rising property values across the region have put the squeeze on taxpayers, but the bite has been especially acute for owners of Habitat for Humanity homes in Northern Virginia. In some areas, their homes have doubled and tripled in value in the past three years.

At least a dozen of the 47 Habitat homeowners in Northern Virginia pay more in property taxes and insurance than they do to pay off their mortgages, according to Karen Cleveland, executive director of the Northern Virginia arm of the housing nonprofit group. It is part of an international group that builds homes with volunteers and sells them to low-income buyers.

Now, you’re probably wondering why they just don’t sell. Here’s why:

In recent months, Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia has launched a campaign to persuade localities to provide tax relief for their homeowners. It is arguing that the Habitat homes shouldn’t be assessed at market rates because deed restrictions prevent their owners from selling the homes for profit or getting home equity loans until the 20-year mortgages are paid. If Habitat homeowners sell their homes before 20 years are up, they must sell them back to Habitat for the amount they cost — $80,000 to $120,000 in most cases, Cleveland said, which is the restricted value.

Perhaps someone can help me out here; why put this onerous restriction on the deed? I can sort of see that the nature of the charitable donation would be altered if it essentially became a cash gift rather than a house. And I suppose it makes some sense to restrict immediate sale. But 20 years? This seems to deprive the recipients of one of the main benefits of homeownership: capital appreciation. What would be wrong with letting this woman sell and buy another, cheaper house elsewhere in the area, rather than petitioning the local government for tax abatement? She and her family would be just as “housed.” On the other hand, she would seem to have a good case that her house is not actually worth the assessed price, since she can’t sell it for that amount. Thoughts?

Your Opportunity to Prove Daniel Davies Wrong

by Henry Farrell on February 15, 2005

I’ve just seen that we’re through to the final stages of the “Best Group Blog” category of the Koufax awards. As Dan observed at an earlier stage of this process, CT has a sorry enough history in these awards.

bq. Oh god, it’s the same every year. We get nominated as “Best Group Blog”, which means “Maybe about Ninth Or Tenth Best Blog On A Good Day, But There’s A Group Blog Category So We’ll Nominate Them In That”. And then we lose.

If you want to show Dan that he’s talking smack for once, exercise your democratic rights, and “head over there and vote for us”: (while you’re at it, consider “giving the nod”: to Belle’s classic “and a pony”: , which is up for the best humorous post). If any further reason is needed, we’ve already gotten endorsements from Fafnir and the Medium Lobster (although Giblets has apparently decided in a fit of pique to vote for Obsidian Wings instead).

Update: Looks like the awards site is down (I suspect due to bandwidth limits) – will update this again when it reappears.

Update 2: Site back up.