Mayor Ravenstahl and Councilman Peduto are proposing similar plans for revitalizing Pittsburgh's housing. Read the Post-Gazette story here. It's fascinating stuff.
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and city Councilman William Peduto yesterday introduced competing plans for giving 10-year tax breaks on new housing, primarily Downtown.
Both men, candidates for mayor in this year's election, proposed plans that would give housing developers abatements of 100 percent on their city property taxes for 10 years.
Though the intention of both plans is to boost Downtown housing, Mr. Ravenstahl's would include 20 city neighborhoods, while Mr. Peduto's would be concentrated in the Downtown, lower Hill District, Uptown, Strip District, and on the North Shore and South Side.
The tax breaks would aid not only developers but also people who buy the units.
That last bit is good. I think it makes sense to give actual residents a break in addition to the Piatt family. And I also think there is another HUGE step in the right direction here:
According to the study Mr. Peduto presented, all three taxing bodies would see tax revenue go up, in part because people will move in and pay wage taxes. By 2021, the consultant estimated, the city, county and school district would be getting a combined $56.8 million more in property and wage taxes than they would without the abatement plan.
Wow. Actual PREDICTIONS. A definable measure of success. I don't know much about the rest of the plan, but the predictions are a good thing.
I wonder what else it addresses. Like... Where the new downtown residents would come from. Is this resident shifting or adding new residents to the city? To the region? The details revealed in the PG might indicate that the tax numbers rely on new residents to the REGION. Because the COMBINED taxes paid to city, county and school district are supposed to go up. That would be hard to do by just shifting people from Shadyside to downtown. Or even Cranberry to downtown.
Or would it? That wage tax statement in the last quote seems like a bit of a hedge. I am not sure why. But it has me worried. What's it mean? I guess I will have to wait to see the report. But it seems like it means that people will be shortsighted and not take the wage tax into account--because they will get this tax abatement for all these years. Then... wham! We'll whack 'em with the wage tax and they'll be stuck. That might well be the case. People are often shortsighted.
But if this means that the long-term tax benefits will have less to do with new residents and more to do with wage taxes, this starts looking like resident shifting again. That might be a good idea for the city, especially if it means switching people from the county into the city. What would it mean for the county? Again, I'll wait to see the report.
Last, my constant question remains: If this is such a good idea, why privilege downtown and a few other residents in this way? If it is a good idea to get people to live in the city, and seeing that the entire city could use more residents, why not expand the program to anyone who will agree to move anywhere in the city? The mayor takes some pains in the article to point out that his plan does not focus only on downtown. But the reporters seem to think that's the focus.
So what's that mean? The people we are trying to get to move downtown are the young creative types with a lot of money. At least that's the kind of housing that's planned so far. So this sort of means that we are privileging those taxpayers for the near future. Which means they will not chip in for schools and roads and other things property taxes pay for. But these people will add to the cost of providing schools and roads, etc. Which means that the other, older taxpayers will have to pick up the slack. Other, older taxpayers who are not necessarily as young, creative and wealthy as their new neighbors.
That might be a great bargain for all involved in the end. But it requires a delicate political touch. Or a deaf ear. I wonder which strategy the leaders in question will employ.
Either way, I am going to look for Peduto's plan now to see which predictions it actually makes.
Update: I have not seen the plan yet, but a question: Is it possible to see this as an end-around on the city's 10 percent TIF limit? There was some squawking last year about how the city had already bestowed all the TIF financing that the state would allow it to bestow.
Now, I know a TIF is technically different than the tax abatement being proposed here. But in the end, is it six of one and half-a-dozen of another? If this is focused on downtown, and we are primarily building condos downtown, doesn't the beneft generally drift in the developer direction? (I don't see a lot of people breaking ground on single-family homes in the Fifth-Forbes corridor.) And isn't a TIF basically a tax break?
Just wondering if there is a connection.