At Lincoln House December 2016

Breaking down the property tax


The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy has expanded its property tax resources for policymakers, policy analysts, public finance students, journalists, and homeowners with its release of the new State-by-State Property Tax at a Glance narratives and visualization tool.

"This new "on-ramp" will provide easy access to our wealth of information about the property tax," said Joan Youngman, senior fellow and chair of the Department of Valuation and Taxation.

The visualization tool, with interactive map and charts, is a new addition to the Lincoln Institute's longstanding database, Significant Features of the Property Tax, and illustrates the great variety across states in the ways they use the property tax. The Property Tax at a Glance narratives, drafted by experts in each state, tell the unique story of the property tax in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Property Tax at a Glance glossary defines over 130 property tax terms providing common meanings as well as state-specific definitions. The resources section links users to state documents and independent research.

The interactive online tool can be used by a policymaker who wants to know which states place limits on property tax rates or property tax levies. In two clicks, the user can see that all but six states limit property tax rates or levies, and that three of those six states are in the New England region, as shown above.

With access to the Property Tax at a Glance narratives, a homeowner thinking about relocating to Florida and unfamiliar with "Save Our Homes” can quickly learn how this unusual and complex assessment limit works and gain access to additional resources for further information. Journalists looking to compare per capita property taxes among the New England states can use the interactive chart to find data quickly, and also get a bird's eye view of per capita property tax burden across the U.S.

Currently featuring data for 2013, the visualization tool maps 19 variables for each state and DC. The State-by-State Property Tax at a Glance Visualization Tool will be updated annually with 2014 data set for release in 2017. The data, which come primarily from the Significant Features of the Property Tax database, also appear in three interactive charts:

  • Sources of local general revenue: property tax, sales tax, income tax, other tax, state aid, and federal aid
  • Selected property tax statistics (including common measures of property tax burden): per capita property tax, property tax as a percentage of personal income, total property tax as a percentage of state-local revenue, median owner-occupied home value, and effective tax rate for a median owner-occupied home
  • Property tax features: classified system, assessment by county, rate or levy limits, assessment limits, and circuit breaker property tax relief programs

Property Tax at a Glance builds on other Lincoln Institute work including the Significant Features of the Property Tax database, a collaboration with the George Washington Institute of Public Policy, and the 50-State Property Tax Comparison Study, an annual joint publication of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence.

Creating productive urban landscapes

Cities that are struggling to become more prosperous and inclusive need to re-think the way they handle vacant and underutilized land, urban development expert Teresa Lynch and landscape architect Chris Reed said in discussion at the Lincoln Institute earlier this month.

Lynch, principal of Mass Economics, and Reed, founding director of the Boston design firm, Stoss and a contributor to the new Lincoln Institute book Nature and Cities, discussed the challenges of existing land utilization regimes, marked by patchworks of hyper-demand and vibrancy alongside areas of vacancy and blight. They highlighted work in Atlanta, Detroit, and New Orleans to create greater economic, social, and environmental value from urban land.

Lynch and Reed said cities need to think beyond solutions such as community gardens on individual lots – a popular use of vacant urban parcels – to address the need for industrial activity and jobs available to greater numbers of urban residents. Many cities have established innovation districts to grow the technology industry, but they have not created enough space for sectors such as warehousing, distribution and light manufacturing, which often require more land and would create jobs for the locally unemployed, they said.

"Often times land problems and employment problems are one and the same in these cities," Reed said.

Urban stakeholders are experimenting with re-assembling and aggregating parcels, deploying green infrastructure, and shifting industrial activity to new neighborhoods in response to rising real estate prices in areas with residential development, among many other strategies, they said.

To view the lecture in its entirety, click here.

Odds & Ends

Nature and Cities makes The Dirt's top 15 books of 2016 (from the American Society of Landscape Architects) ... Green bonds as a conservation finance tool ... Our team met with planners at the University of Liverpool London office to look at Brexit's impact on cities in the United Kingdom ... The threat of sea level rise in the New York City region ... We are helping the Columbus, Ohio region understand tax breaks for business ... Why transparency is critical in the use of publicly owned land ... New York cracks down on Airbnb ... The challenge of property tax cuts in Texas ... The Scenario Planning Applications Network is sponsoring its fourth annual Innovation Awards ... This month's highlighted working paper: Real Estate Development and Financial Crises, by Simon X. Zhao and Bryane Michael.

Happy Holidays from all of us at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy!

— ANTHONY FLINT & WILL JASON, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

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