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The value of a two-newspaper city, Part II

Yesterday, I showed how the same story was presented by two different newspapers. Today, I get to do it again.

"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" recently came to Medfield, Massachusetts to work their one-week miracle on the Johnson family. And in their never-ending quest to find the most heart-wrenching families possible, this one has a five-year-old son with spinal muscular atrophy. They remade the house to be far more friendly to the boy whille he and his family were on an all-expenses-paid vacation.

The Glob's account is a true "thumb-sucker" of a story, playing up the good-news aspect. The only shadow over the whole thing are a couple of complaints from neighbors, who whose lives were a bit disrupted by the whole thing. Overall, though, it's "the feel-good hit of the season."

Leave it to the Boston Herald to look at the same story and find actual substance in it. They recall the Oprah Winfrey Car Giveaway fiasco (where audience members were given new Pontiacs, then later found themselves on the hook for taxes on it -- a hook many of them couldn't afford) and look into just what these new "houses" will end up costing these families.

Apparently, when you tear down someone's house and give them a far nicer one, you tend to increase the value of that house. And by an odd coincidence, that tends to affect their property taxes, too. And in the case of the Johnsons, it looks like their tax bill will more than double. Toss in higher heating and utility bills for a house with about 250% more square footage, and they're gonna be forking over a lot of money for their new "free" house.

Robert Heinlein coined what he called the TANSTAAFL Principle -- "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch." ABC built it for them in exchange for a heart-warming episode of a hit TV series, and the rights to broadcast the family's most heartfelt emotions on some Sunday night. And the Johnsons might have gotten the house for free, but they'll be paying dearly to keep it.

I hope they can, and I hope they knew that going in.


Comments (7)

Actually I think that if yo... (Below threshold)
plum:

Actually I think that if you are elderly or disabled you can apply for an abatement, which the town would be unlikely to deny in this case. Heating it will be the big expense. Also it appears that Curt Schilling is a friend of the family so I wouldn't worry too much.

Then again, the IRS might d... (Below threshold)
John S:

Then again, the IRS might decide the "free" house was income and demand $660,000 by April 15. As for the Oprah fiasco, the multi-billionaire really could have afforded to reimburse the taxes on those cars.

Give a man a big new house,... (Below threshold)

Give a man a big new house, and you shelter him until the tax bill arrives.

Teach him to build a house, and you shelter him and all the people who buy houses from him.

I am not sure, but didnt th... (Below threshold)
buzz:

I am not sure, but didnt the cars given away on Oprah's show come from Pontiac? Didnt they give them away, and it didnt cost her anything? From all the credit and publicity she got from it, she should be able to pay those taxes and still come out ahead. OTOH, if you cant afford the taxes for the new car, sell it. Free money. Buy a used car with the money. Where's the complaint? If someone gives you a near million dollar house and you cant afford the taxes, sell it and buy something you can afford. Again, free money. Not as nice as the one you were given, but better than what you had. I just dont see the complaint. I suppose there might be an agreement not to sell the house for x amount of time, but if the only other option is to loose it to taxes, I am sure something can be worked out.

John S: there was an articl... (Below threshold)

John S: there was an article a while back on the issue of whether the family receives income equal to the value of the improvements... the article suggested that they got around that issue by having ABC rent the house for the week, in which case the improvements would be tenant improvements, and not income to the owners.

Maybe science has advanced... (Below threshold)
Thomas Hazlewood, Hawaii:

Maybe science has advanced such that my comments are no longer accurate, but......

In 1986 my son was born and diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy. One of the things I learned about the affliction was that I should not expect him to live beyond one year. It was not until he was five that he was properly diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome. We sought another diagnosis at that time because some knowledgeable people pointed out that my son should be dead.

<a href="http://www.hrblock... (Below threshold)
Barbara:

http://www.hrblock.com/presscenter/presskits/hrb_news_kit/articles/therealcostofrealitytv.html

Interesting comment about extreme "beauty" makeovers - - such as on reality shows such as the "The Swan"




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