This Space for Rent

There is a G-d and he loves us all (pt 2)

According to a front page story in the Clackamas Portland Tribune, the City of Portland is thinking of scrapping one of the nasty little property tax abatement programs which allows rich developers to make more buckets of money while forcing people who don't live in the beloved-by-the-damned-PDC trendy districts to pay for the civic services that are needed to support the new condominium towers.

The big developers are, of course, wailing that it isn't fair and how can we build anything if Uncle Sugar isn't around to chip in a little something extra for our trouble. For some reason, I'm finding it hard to sympathise with their anguish. Every morning, and every afternoon, I take the bus across the Ross Island bridge and get to see the development taking place in Homer's Folly; development that is replacing a run-down industrial district that didn't pay jack in taxes with a upscale condominium district that also won't pay jack in taxes, but which will require quite a lot more investment by the city for civic services. (And it's not just the US$15 US$20 US$40 US$46 million dollar aerial tramway that the city of Portland is putting in just because someone on the board of OHSU read The Lathe Of Heaven and wants to pretend he's Dr. Haber; no, Homer's Folly is going to need new streets, sewer improvements to support several hundred residences, and don't forget the trolley line [which, admittedly, they'll end up needing if Metro can ever override the superrich in Dunthorpe and reopen the Red Electric down to Lake Oswego. But when they do that extension, they will discover that the people who designed the terminal managed to arrange it so that there's a line pole right at the end of the line, stopping easy extension southward.]) And every morning I think of the poor developers who might have to live with only one swimming pool filled with money instead of the two swimming pools they were intending to fill, and, gosh, that violin just won't start playing.

The one trump card that the developers have, and they're not at all shy about playing it, is that they won't build so-called "affordable" housing if Uncle Sugar doesn't pay them. But this "affordable" housing (for families making "up to" $54,000 a year) only lasts 10 years, and then the developers can punt those (few) families out and resell the condos to yuppies at a comfortable markup. So, call their bluff; There are more developers out there than Homer Williams and the Trammel Crow company, and if those two can't develop the land without government handouts, why, perhaps some smaller developers might like to have a chance to get started on filling their first swimming pools with money.