Monday, December 20, 2010

Wet Pork or Good Intentions Gone Too Far?

Plan Philly reported that accessibility advocates have recently introduced the concept of "visitability" as a proposal for legislative consideration. Visitability requires that all homes feature a wheelchair accessible ground floor and restroom.

When does our desire to make life easier for everyone start adversely affecting the quality of life for everyone? Advocates argue that accessible homes with no front steps and large bathrooms make life easier for the whole, but do they? A large bathroom eats away at available space. Steps to the front door often serve as a sight line to an architectural centerpiece.

A private home is a private home. Subsidies already pay to retrofit homes for those who require better accessibility, and tax incentives and subsidies are given to handicapped individuals to compensate for inaccessibility. City Hall can't dictate the comfortably of your guests, particularly when the majority of home owners will never need these features.

This just leads to further intrusion into private people's lives. Before long people won't be allowed to drink or smoke or watch R rated movies in their own homes. Why not restrict the display of artwork or religious iconography that guests might find offensive? If the government's intervention in my person life isn't drawn at my front door, does it exist at all?

In a similar stipulation, the 2009 International Residential Code becomes effective in townhouses this year and requires that all newly constructed homes come with a sprinkler system. The Pennsylvania Builders Association argues that this would increase home construction cost by as much as $15,000. Additionally, no mention has been made of how this additional cost may or may not be offset by lowering the cost of home owner's insurance.

During economic down times it isn't unusual to see pork barrel spending. Recessions built the Eisenhower Interstate System and removed asbestos - deadly or not - from public schools.

While sprinkler systems certainly make our homes safer, how much of our personal safety should rely on the government's intervention? And while wheelchair ramps and handlebars in the bathroom could make a small percentage of potential visitors a little more comfortable, how much of our personal space needs to accommodate those we don't know?

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