Friday, June 12, 2009

Why do we need NOW now?

Davenport crafts housing stimulus -QCTimes

Short answer: We don't need NOW now.

Long answer: We're turning the tide without it. Our population has stopped the slide that was happening through the late 80's and 90's, young people are becoming more interested in the QC area, and downtown is being revitalized. Just because Bettendorf is out subdivision-ing us isn't reason to do something this drastic.

On one hand, the Davenport NOW program is what a lot of people have been asking for for a long time. Instead of only giving incentives to companies or residential developers that come in and build big projects, the NOW program would actually provide them to the little guy. Is 50 new business created 10 jobs any worse than 1 AT&T type place creating 500 jobs? If Alexander Company can get property tax incentives to renovate a huge blighted building, shouldn't an average homeowner get some for fixing up a run down single family home? So I guess I don't think the idea is crazy. I just don't think its necessary.

I think Davenport is turning itself around WITHOUT this, just like it is without the Promise. Maybe rather than try to come up with a new gimmick every few years, we should sit back and give what we're doing a chance. Improving city departments and making them more professional, increasing the capital improvemt budget for streets, sewers, and parks, and revitalizing downtown... these things are working. I don't know where all these abandoned buildings and businesses are that Cruiser talks about. Sure, there are some around, but any city of 100,000 has vacant commercial property. I definitely don't feel like there's more now than there was in the 80's. I also know quite a few young people who left after college who are now returning to the Quad Cities. Lets show those people how much has changed since the 1980's before start giving away the tax farm.

In the rumors department, I'm hearing that this project is the Mayor's baby. Apparently most Alderman were somewhat willing to go along with it, but many are now having their doubts. This kind of seems confirmed by the tabling by the council, but possibly not. There are questions about the legality of the program, and how the "up front" tax break could work. How can the city rebate property taxes up front for 10 years when they don't know what the property value or taxes will be 5 or 10 years down the line? Will folks who take the "up front" money sue later if it doesn't cover their actual tax bill? So there are a lot of questions, and little public input.

I'd like to see the city skip the NOW program and at least wait to see the results of the 2010 Census. I feel like Davenport is going to end up with a surprising amount of growth. If the sad state of Illinois can ever make the new WIU riverfront campus and Chicago rail line happen, those projects could easily be the final piece that puts the QC area on the road to success. Davenport needs to sell itself and its amenities rather than just try to underbid the suburbs on tax prices.


pioneer98 said...

The problem of slow housing starts may be solved just by finally getting that west-side sewer tunnel built. Let's wait until that is done, and re-assess things a few years later. If that still fails to attract developers, then it may be time to do something, but even then I'm not sure the NOW thing is necessarily the answer.

We already do have some programs that encourage investment on a limited basis to certain neighborhoods, correct? Maybe we need to consider making these existing ones a little more attractive, and maybe promoting them more.

Anonymous said...

The population in Davenport will be down in 2010, perhaps as low as 96,000. let's worry about being a great City of 100,000 rather than taking extreme measures to raise population.

Jobs = population. Period.

Anonymous said...

I think the logic to the NOW program is that when the market softened the one area really hit in the Quad Cities was development. We had over developed subdivisions and they are sitting. The NOW program only covers presently platted subdivisions. Stimulating building in these existing subdivisions well alleviate the expense the city has in maintaining roads and sewers etc in over sprawling areas.
This isn't something that will be around forever, and once the obvious new subdivisions are built out it will encourage smaller infill projects like vacant lots or rehabs.
Thats my thought.
This along with the $8000 tax credit for first time home buyers makes it a smart time to build.

Anonymous said...

I worry the those unsavory folks (slumlords) will take advantage of this program only to make hoards of cash for themselves selling this rehabbed homes on contract to folks knowingly that the buyers will fold thus giving the properties back to the original owner to be sold again and again.

There must be stiff ground rules that the property must not become rental and the owner must tend to live at the residence for 10 years. And if caught renting, the owner would would have to pay back the 100% of the incentive and be fined heavily.

I am tired of the city giving away tax dollars to those who plan the make money on their small investments.

QuadCityImages said...

You mean like the Bettendorf senior apartments that get $30 million in tax credits to sell (admittedly for less than full value) for a $20-some million building and still need property tax incentives?

Anonymous said...

NPR says it's a great market in the Quad Cities