By Bill Mars Guest columnist Apr 7, 2021
The for-profit National Home Builders want a one size fits all approach in Minnesota’s 850 cities and 1,700 townships. That is why they are advancing legislation in St. Paul that is a serious threat to the local control entrusted to cities in how they grow.
If losing local control were not bad enough, proposed legislation holds the potential for raising the taxes of residents in growing cities.
There are two questions before your legislators:
Who should oversee housing growth? A. The cities. B. The state.
Who should pay for growth? A. National Home Builders. B. Existing taxpayers.
How are the proposals bad for cities and taxpayers?
Elimination of local control. The NHBs want legislation that encourages duplexes and fourplexes to be built alongside existing single-family homes. Cities want all types of housing; and local controls specify where high density housing is best. Should legislation move forward, local controls and protections would be eroded, and the character of single-family neighborhoods would be forever changed with the addition of multifamily units next to single-family homes.
Capping of development fees. Every new home in a city gets connected to water and sewer. In a land of 10,000 lakes, cities have vastly different landscapes which adds to the complexity and cost of infrastructure. The capping of fee(s) would have significant negative implications for cities and taxpayers. If NHBs are successful, cities will either make budget cuts or raise taxes on existing residents to cover the unfunded gap on infrastructure brought by growth.
Building fees based on size vs. valuation. Today, cities use valuation to determine building fees. Valuation makes sense because it recognizes the variation in one home as compared to another. Consider two 1,500-square-foot homes. One has two bathrooms and a basement, the other, one bathroom and no basement. Today’s valuation fee can distinguish between the two homes. The NHBs want to shift the building fees from valuation to one based on size. If successful, this would be a serious setback to Housing Affordability for first-time buyers. That buyer would find the permit fee on a starter home disproportionately high. Conversely, the higher amenity home, would get a break as their fee would be proportionately low. This is neither equitable nor fair especially when you consider the low supply of affordable housing.
Let your legislators know what their answers should be to the questions facing them. (Hopefully, you believe, as I, that the answer to both questions is “A”!)
There is no time like the present, legislators need to hear from you today. Please tell them to leave local controls in place and make National Home Builders pay for the growth they bring.
Bill Mars is the mayor of Shakopee.
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