When many liberals look at a rag-tag group of neighborhood activists fighting against a corporation, their tribal instinct is to back the neighborhood activists. But when it comes to the issue of infill housing development, this gets the politics exactly backwards.
Renter/home-buyer interests and housing developer interests are basically aligned. Not perfectly aligned, but about as well aligned as any political coalition is going to get. Both benefit from more total housing construction. Both are harmed by regulatory caps on the housing supply. So wherever you see developers pushing to build more housing units than neighbors want, the correct pro-equity position is to cheer them on.
This is a family blog, so I’ll put Chris Sawyer’s surly tribute to Philly developer Ori Feibush below the fold, but I agree completely. Everybody agrees the glut of vacant lots and blight in Philly is horrible. But what goes in those vacant lots if not more housing and mixed-use buildings? Can’t be all gardens and parks. City housing costs are too high. It’s time to build more infill housing, and the people who are fighting tooth and nail against NIMBYs and other pro-scarcity forces are heroes: Continue reading →
A bipartisan pair of lawmakers in the House announced on Thursday that they were forming a caucus for public transportation supporters.
The lawmakers, Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) and Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), said the caucus would “provide a forum for members of Congress to engage in constructive dialogue on the challenges and needs of mass transit agencies across the country.”
“Buses, trains, and light rail that run safely and reliably reduce congestion on our roads, improve travel times across all modes, cut down on air pollution, and make our communities more attractive places to live, work, and own businesses,” Lipinski said in a statement.
When the public invests in a nice streetcar line in a city, they create some wealth. Who gets that? Riders? Taxpayers? Nearby landowners? Existing tenants or future tenants of nearby buildings?
I think the worst possible thing you could do is let nearby landowners capture all of that wealth as a windfall in their property value. You really need to disperse that wealth across more people. One way to do that is to upzone the land around transit stations, so that many more people and businesses can have useful access to transit. Another way is to tax away the property value windfall via land taxes, and use the revenue for operations, to keep fares low.
I think those are the best known ways to address the concerns raised by Eric Jaffe’s sources about the ability of streetcars, and transit investments generally, to deliver growth and development in an equitable way:
Often that justification is economic development. Here, too, streetcars are no automatic fix. As Yonah Freemark has pointed out, cities often forget that streetcars won’t lead to transit-oriented development if zoning doesn’t permit mixed-use density in the corridor. Portland’s streetcar corridors have experienced a boom because they did just that. Other places, like St. Louis, have overlooked the role of zoning in streetcar development, according to Freemark:
In places where regulations make building large, mixed-use buildings difficult, transportation projects that will not do much to improve mobility will be incapable of encouraging much construction either.
Even where strong development does occur, cities must be mindful of the transformation they’re encouraging. The H Street corridor in Washington, D.C., for instance, exploded with businesses following streetscape improvements made in advance of the streetcar (which, of course, could have been made for buses). But as wealth gathers near the tracks, cities must consider how to keep the corridor affordable to the residents whose lives the line was supposed to enhance in the first place.
LMAO Keegan come on son where are any other Latino cabinet heads? Corbett has been dinged before, and not just by Democrats, for having an overwhelmingly white male Cabinet, and the whole reason this blew up is because Corbett rather bluntly told the truth. It’s the classic definition of a gaffe:
[Down Arrow] PA Dems and Allyson Schwartz. It’s understandable that Democrats would take any opportunity to ding Gov. Corbett. But the PA Dems and Schwartz misfired when they jumped on his Latino staffer remark. Corbett’s former Health Sec. Eli Avila was first generation Puerto Rican and their charges had no merit. You’ve got to pace yourself. The Governor is not a verbal wizard, but if you fire off a statement everyday about something he says it will become noise.
A new Post/ABC News poll suggests that even Republican voters are turning on austerity and the fiscal status quo. It finds that among overall Americans, 56 percent disapprove of the sequester cuts, and among Republicans, 54 percent disapprove of them. Only 39 percent of Republicans approve. While majorities still say they have not personally felt the cuts, ABC News notes that the poll also finds that the number who have felt them is rising, and among those people, economic pessimism runs stronger.
The sequester, of course, is the result of Congress’ inability to reach a fiscal deal. The Tea Party brigade — with the apparent support of GOP leader Mitch McConnell — won’t even allow Congress to enter into fiscal discussions unless it is established beforehand that raising the debt limit must require 60 votes in the Senate.
What makes this whole spectacle even more dispiriting is that GOP leaders such as John Boehner have already admitted Republicans won’t allow default. Yet we are all supposed to pretend the debt limit gives Republicans leverage, anyway, even though we know it is a foregone conclusion that they will agree to raise it in the end. Indeed, Boehner has openly acknowledged that all of the theatrics Republicans are going through as they gear up for a debt ceiling showdown are all about figuring out how to give conservatives a way of getting to Yes on the debt limit hike.
(Ma$e is totally ripe for a comeback album now that he’s out of his 16-year Bad Boy contract )
All vodka is basically the same, so P. Diddy’s specialty brand vodka Cîroc is going to be pretty much identical to all the other vodkas already sold in the PLCB’s stores.
The people who should determine whether Diddy’s vodka is worth stocking at premium prices though are individual store owners, and ultimately consumers. If store owners want to take a little risk and stock some Cîroc to see if it sells, and then shoppers turn out to like it, they’ll keep ordering it. If shoppers don’t think it’s worth the premium price, because it tastes exactly like all other vodka, then individual store owners will stop stocking it. Maybe Philly turns out to really like Diddy vodka, but central PA not so much.
The fact that monopolies naturally breed corruption is well-established in economics, and liberals know this to be true in every other sector of the economy. Unfortunately the presence of a pro-monopoly message from organized labor and Democratic Party elected officials is confusing many otherwise-intelligent people about the nature of this issue.
Harrisburg doesn’t want to adequately fund transit, but they also don’t want to give local governments the tools to fund it themselves. One or both of these things has to change, and at the very least it should be the second.
I don’t like the usual local sales tax option because it’s so regressive, and that’s why I keep beating the drum for value capture.
Public transit investments increase the land value of nearby properties. Value capture financing levies a small land tax on transit-adjacent land to fund transit, “capturing” back some of the windfall. PA has a version of this called a TRID (Transit Revitalization Investment District) that works like a traditional Business Improvement District except for transit improvements. I don’t really like it that much, since the money has to stay within the district and fund capital improvements. I think cities should be allowed to use that money for the operations budget.
Minneapolis isn’t doing that, and their new streetcar funding plan is closer to the TRID concept, but I want to keep reminding everyone that value capture is a good idea, and landowners are the only users of the transportation network who aren’t being asked to chip in on the new funding bill:
One provision in the state tax bill could have a significant impact on Mayor R.T. Rybak’s dreams of building a streetcar in Minneapolis.
The bill allows the city to dedicate tax revenues from several specific parcels around Minneapolis to help pay for a new streetcar line. The city pushed for the new funding method because, unlike regional transit like light rail, streetcars would be a localized project requiring more municipal investment [...]
The “value capture district” designated by the state for funding streetcars is similar to tax increment financing. It uses revenues from parcels near the transit line to pay off bonds issued to build it.
The money could be used to pay for planning and constructing the streetcar line, including transit stations, as well as acquiring or improving public space, according to the legislation.
In Washington D.C., the only thing that Congressional Republicans fear more than a strong Democratic challenger is a Tea Party primary opponent from the right. In Pennsylvania’s 12th District, Tea Party Republican Keith Rothfus has the opposite problem–he’s facing a primary challenge from the center.
Vietnam veteran Larry Stiles of Johnstown announced his intention to challenge Rothfus for the Republican nomination on a moderate platform and put veterans first. Already, Stiles is attacking Rothfus and demanding action. Continue reading →
The takeaway from this Len Barcousky article about the burden of tax-exempt properties on county-seat cities should be that County government needs to pay county-seat cities back the equivalent of whatever they lose out from tax-exempt properties. Counties should assess the land value of all the tax-exempt properties, and then pay the county-seat cities what they could have been getting if those properties were on the tax rolls. It’s only fair. Somebody’s got to be the county seat, but having all those tax-exempt properties shrinks their tax base to pay for services. They need to be compensated for that:
County seats, including the City of Butler, Greensburg and Pittsburgh, tend to be the most affected by a concentration of tax-exempt properties. In Butler City nontaxable property totals 29 percent of the community’s assessed value. In Greensburg, that number rises to about 35 percent. In Pittsburgh, which is home to major universities as well as UPMC, the region’s largest medical provider, the statistic jumps to 39 percent.
By comparison, just 21 percent of all parcels in Allegheny County are tax exempt. In Butler County, the countywide statistic drops to 13 percent. In Beaver County, about 15 percent of real estate is tax-exempt.
In response to the high proportion of tax-exempt properties in Pittsburgh, county Executive Rich Fitzgerald has ordered the county’s Office of Property Assessment to conduct a parcel-by-parcel review of real estate tax breaks claimed by charitable and nonprofit organizations. About 2,800 letters have been sent out so far.
A call for periodic study of tax-exempt properties also was included in a recent audit released by county Controller Chelsa Wagner. Her study calculated that nonprofits and charities, including hospitals, religious institutions, government facilities and universities, were shielded from more than $78 million in county property taxes in 2011. That number could be tripled to reflect taxes that would otherwise be paid to municipalities and school districts. In return for their tax breaks, nonprofits and charities are expected to provide services that benefit the residents of the municipalities where they are located.