April 6: How the property tax abatement works | National Housing Trust Fund | Making sense of PA local government

Jeffrey Spivak at Urban Land has a long piece on Philadelphia’s successful redevelopment of the Navy Yard, and the role of placemaking in that effort. “The Navy Yard’s momentum and sense of place are no accident, but the result of careful planning and a design-comes-first philosophy, led by the quasi-public Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. as the master developer and the private sector joint venture of Liberty Property Trust and Synterra Partners as the commercial property developer.”

Matt Ruben’s case against Councilman Allan Domb’s proposal for a 20-year tax abatement on homes under $250,000 contains one of the clearest explanations out there on the economics of the 10-year tax abatement. “[T]the abatement doesn’t make homeownership cheaper by lowering the monthly payment. Instead, it lowers the tax portion of the monthly payment, which allows the house portion of the monthly payment to be higher. It enables the buyer to qualify for a bigger mortgage, which lets the developer charge more for the house.

Irina Zhorov explains Pennsylvania’s system for classifying the state’s 2,562 municipal governments into third-class cities, second-class townships, boroughs, and all the rest. As with most things in Pennsylvania politics, the Uniformity Clause in the state constitution helps explain the weirdness. “Pennsylvania has what’s called a uniformity clause in its constitution, which bars legislators from levying taxes specific to just one city or municipality, or on one group of people and not another. The uniformity clause, however, recognizes certain classes, like the different class cities, so the designations help lawmakers skirt that rule by making laws for all first class cities, for example, even though in practice it would still apply only to Philadelphia.”

The People for Bikes blog is running a series of posts this week keyed to their new report Quick Builds for Better Streets [PDF] which looks specifically at the process side of creating new bike infrastructure on city streets, and some of the process innovations that have allowed cities (including Pittsburgh) to create new protected bike lanes on the cheap in months instead of years. These MEMFix neighborhood festivals are a stand-out example from Memphis, where neighbors and businesses are directly engaged in identifying and redesigning problem areas.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban development announced the creation of a new National Housing Trust Fund on Monday, which aims to create permanently affordable housing for extremely low-income households. The fund will be seeded with just $174 million to start. For context, the largest federal housing outlay, the home mortgage interest deduction, costs taxpayers about $68 billion a year.

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