Tax rankings and caps, how France is like zoning, and "Houston-style" zoningAnother accumulation of miscellaneous minor items.
- The U.S. Census Bureau ranks Texas second-lowest for taxes per capita (although a solid fourth-largest in total dollars), and yet somehow everyone's whining about excessive property taxes.
- Speaking of property taxes, I enjoyed the recent Chronicle article covering the dangers of tax caps. Texas should take careful note. I've written on the risks several times before, particularly noting the California case study (more here) and the massive problems there. This article focuses on Florida. An excerpt:
A warning from FloridaBut Fred Brummer, a Republican legislative leader in Florida and outspoken critic of that state's low appraisal cap, warned against "folks in the state of Texas ... following us down the road to ruin."
Brummer said a 3 percent annual cap on increases in home values adopted by Florida voters in 1992 has provided many homeowners with lower taxes but also has transferred much of the burden of paying for government "from the wealthy to the not-so-wealthy."
Reported complicationsThe Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune reported last September that Save Our Homes had prevented many people from being forced out of their homes by ever-increasing taxes.
But it also noted that the amendment had "disproportionately shifted the burden of supporting local government ... to snowbirds and businesses and landlords," who have seen their taxes soar.
"It transformed a system that made sense — where the most valuable property got taxed highest — into a snarl of inequities ... Millionaires in mansions on the water pay the same taxes as middle-class families in cookie-cutter subdivisions," the newspaper added.
It cited examples of neighbors with markedly different tax bills on similar houses, simply because one owner had lived in his house for years and the other only recently had moved in.
The newspaper also reported that apartment owners and their tenants were being squeezed by higher taxes, and that many small businesses were being taxed out of existence.
And many Floridians who want to sell their homes can't afford to move, because they would lose their tax breaks and see their taxes on new houses mushroom.
(for a better solution, go here)
- Reason's Out of Control blog on statism and stagnation in France, with this succinct point at the end:
"The regulatory welfare state effectively politicizes all aspects of the economy, making entrepreneurship and dynamism almost impossible.
The same effects can be seen in local communities in America where zoning and urban planning has created the illusion of security and stability. So-called community "visioning", combined with a host of strict regulatory controls on land use, create static places that are resistant to the changes necessary to make them competitive and adaptable in a dynamic environment."
- And finally, speaking of zoning, an interesting op-ed in the Houston Business Journal this week on Houston as "the only major U.S. city without zoning." An excerpt:
Let me say an official "Huzzah!" to that.
Well, I would submit that urban Houston has a particular style of zoning that works rather efficiently.
We frequently run stories about conflicts over commercial encroachment into inner-city residential neighborhoods.
Near downtown, well-heeled homeowners posted lawn signs protesting a planned dental clinic.
Out southwest, a civic group stalled construction of a hospital expansion.
Up the Loop, outcry from a single-family community threw up a roadblock to development of an apartment complex.
These are just three examples from recent months. Hundreds of such confrontations, most unreported, have taken place and continue to unfold since zoning was zapped nearly two decades ago.
In most cases, a resolution is reached through a process of compromise and accommodation.
It usually goes like this. One elected official, a city council member representing the district, brings parties to the table. After some give and take, an agreement is reached without input from a downtown cabal of zone-meisters.
While the system may not be perfect (and what zoning system is?) this grassroots approach to development seems to work as often as not in "The only major U.S. city without zoning."