Archives for November 2012

Real Estate Prices Rising in Allentown NIZ

A very good sign that the NIZ is working as planned, via Jennifer Woodward:

Ron Coleman, an associate broker at NextRE Associate in Allentown, has been a Lehigh Valley Realtor since 1980. He said that he has seen many positive changes taking place in the vicinity of the arena.

Coleman owns three properties on Hamilton Street, on both sides of the hockey arena. These properties are commercial storefronts with residential space above.

“Prices have firmed up, gone up, and there is kind of a scramble in the Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ) zone because of the taxes… let’s say a restaurant wants to come into the area and they spend the money to improve the property, then the sales tax comes back to that business once a year,” said Coleman.

“The owner (of a NIZ property) knows he can lower the price per square foot on his property because he gets money back from the state.”

Coleman, who is also a principal with Smith, Coleman, Stoker & Kave Realty Services in Allentown, reported that the hockey arena has created a rippling effect, giving people a great incentive to buy and improve properties – many of which had a negative stigma, were in disrepair or left vacant for years well before NIZ and the hockey arena project took shape.

Bill White Gets One Wrong

Bill White writes:

I lumped the mayors of Allentown and Bethlehem together in Thursday’s column, suggesting that both were trying to convince their residents to accept bold proposals that don’t seem to be particularly popular. I ended up focusing on Mayor John Callahan’s plan for converting Bethlehem to a single trash hauler, and I’ll be writing more about Tuesday night’s Bethlehem City Council meeting in my column Saturday.

Actually there’s no evidence for the claim that Bethlehem’s single trash hauler proposal is unpopular. The best available evidence says a clear majority supports the plan, and the most generous estimate puts the opposition no higher than 36%:

I’d expect a paid columnist like Bill to know better than to make the same error as innumerate bloggers who think Eric Evans’ gut has better accuracy than a poll with an impressively large sample size.

If you want to argue something is unpopular, you need to show that it’s unpopular, not gesture at random anecdotes.

The Change We Need

Good points from Scott Lemieux on the significance of Obama’s opening bid:

It makes it clear that Obama is willing to maximize his leverage by letting the Bush tax cuts expire. This isn’t the proposal of someone who’s particularly interested in making a deal to avoid “going over the cliff.” And after the Bush tax cuts have expired Obama’s hand is much stronger.

It makes it more likely that the terrible deal he offered in 2011 was based on the idea that any “grand bargain” would help his re-election, rather than an inherent commitment to the underlying principles. This deal has the right priorities — significant new revenue, needed stimulus spending, and to the extent that “entitlements” are cut this is done correctly: Social Security not touched, unspecified Medicare cuts that can be progressive because they don’t necessarily entail cuts to services.

Demand for Center City Housing Booming in Philly

Dana DiFilippo:

Lured by jobs, city amenities and the ability to get around without a car, more people are living in Center City, resulting in the rebound of a housing market severely damaged in the 2008-09 recession, according to a report released Tuesday by the Center City District and Central Philadelphia Development Corp.

The population of “greater” Center City – 180,000 residents, living from river to river and from Tasker Street to Girard Avenue – soared 10.2 percent from 2000 to 2010, so that Philadelphia now has the third-largest downtown population among American cities (behind New York and Chicago), the report notes.

That trend boosted both the volume and price of residential sales and rentals, and spurred more construction and renovation, the report shows.

Paul Levy, the Center City District’s president and CEO, attributed the population growth to empty nesters returning to the city, more families deciding to raise their children here and more adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s settling here.

Multi-family housing is very popular right now. Smaller core cities who want to be competitive for residents need to let developers build that kind of housing when they want to.

Governments Create Markets: Bethlehem Trash Hauler Edition

One point I’ve been glad to hear from John Callahan and Joe Kelly is that switching to a single trash hauler does not reflect a problem with the private trash haulers.

They are doing the best they can within the wacky market design that city government has created for them. It just happens to be the case that the market design creates a lot of inefficiency and makes the city dirtier and poorer than it has to be.

Governments create markets. The rules and regulations established by governments shape the environment in which certain business models can succeed and others can’t.

Under the current regulatory mix, there’s a profit opportunity to run a business collecting people’s trash, so a lot of people do it. But that profit opportunity was created by city government.

When city government made the choice not to provide trash collection service to everyone, and mandated that residents take care of their own trash, that created an opportunity for people to start businesses providing that service, since most people prefer having a little less money than making a weekly trip to the landfill.

Just because that’s been the regulatory mix for a long time doesn’t mean it’s wrong to change it. John Callahan thinks that a different city policy will produce a cheaper, cleaner and more efficient organization of trash service, and he’s right. More people are going to be better off if city council changes the rules than the number of people who will no longer be able to extract regulatory rents from the city government’s botched market design.

Shorter Boehner: Democrats Should Propose the Spending Cuts for Us

It continues to amaze me how bizarre the Republican negotiating position is on the austerity crisis. House Republicans say there’s a “price for everything” to avert the austerity crisis and raise the debt ceiling, but they won’t say what that price is. They say they want to do entitlement cuts, but are insisting that President Obama and the Democrats identify some cuts for them to demand.

What? If people want spending cuts then they need to propose some spending cuts. Democrats aren’t the ones demanding spending cuts, so quite sensibly, they’re not proposing any. Republicans are the ones who want the cuts, so why are they keeping it a secret? Say what you want!

This whole thing is going to be a lot simpler if we just wait until after January 1st, when the only question to debate will be how much to cut taxes.

If Charlie Dent’s a Moderate, Why Hasn’t He Denounced the No Tax Pledge Yet?

If it were true that Charlie Dent is on the left of the Republican caucus, you’d think he’d have been one of the first out the gate to denounce the Grover Norquist No Tax Pledge, before other more conservative House members. But he hasn’t.