Mismanagement by Austin city politicians leads to choking of housing

Ellen Troxclair:
The city of Austin plans to raise property taxes as much as it possibly can — 7.9% — without triggering a potential election to roll back the tax rate. There’s no new, unexpected and urgent need here. City leaders are just trying to circumvent the intent of a new state law that limits property tax revenue growth to 3.5% without voter approval, but which doesn’t go into effect until next year.

In passing Senate Bill 2, state lawmakers were responding to a very real sentiment on the part of Austinites — and all Texans. Property owners feel they’re drowning in taxes, and that they can never really own their own homes. Renters are also footing tax bills, indirectly feeling the pain when these costs are passed down. If homeowner falls behind on property taxes, due to sickness or job loss or any other reason, the taxing entities can swoop in and take their homes. Those tax sales happen on the first Tuesday of every month in Travis County.

One goal of the new law is to ensure that cities, counties and other taxing entities reasonably control their spending habits, and to bring their taxing ability more in line with the taxpayers’ ability to pay. That’s something Austin refuses to do.

Instead, city leaders are focused on something else: an imaginary deficit they say they’ll face in future years if they don’t raise taxes now. The city’s revenues will continue to increase by tens of millions of dollars per year due to new construction and rising property values alone. Yet because they simply want to keep spending elevated, they have tried to argue the new law will create a deficit.

Austin officials say much of the new revenue will be spent on two of the city’s top priorities — housing and homelessness. But city policies are making those problems worse, and infusing cash into already-debunked plans won’t improve the situation.
Much of the homeless problems are in cities that facilitate it rather than try to inhibit it.   Austin appears to be making the same mistake of West Coast cities where it is leading to disease.  If you want to stop homelessness you do not allow people to pitch tents on public property and if they do you charge them rent for space like you do at state parks.  You could also levy a tax on those pitching tents on public property.  If you want less of something tax it.  If they can't pay the tax they suffer the same thing a homeowner does when he fails to pay his taxes.

As for property taxes on people who own their own property, raising them to confiscatory levels eventually leads to a feudal system where "owners" are having to pay rent to the taxing authority for their own property.  I would further restrict taxes on the property by requiring the entities to lower the rate to adjust for inflation in property values.  In other words, a property whose value increases because of market conditions shouldn't automatically have his taxes increased.


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