Submitted by Jeff Buster on Tue, 03/13/2007 - 21:26.


ROLDO    has been talking sense to power for years in NEO.  Here he is,  with his indefatigable energy,  keeping at it here, on CoolCleveland with his views  on tax abatements.  Roldo, I hear you!

I agree with Roldo, and his conclusion...+ green

As I am driving redevelopment of two very abandoned areas of Cleveland and East Cleveland, I take the question of tax abatements very seriously. If City Council reduces abatements to 12 years, or otherwise, as City Planning Director Bob Brown suggested at the recent Green Home symposium at CIA, socially consious redevelopers in struggling neigborhoods will be economically disadvantaged to compete with all the projects already abated (of which there are many building, on the books and grandfathered). As a compromise, I like something like what Roldo suggests at his conclusion:

At the least, abatement should be cut back to housing $150,000 or under and with a cap on income. This would allow abatement on housing for struggling moderate-income people and rule out those who are simply taking a gift because, well, it’s there, not because of real need.

I'd add they must be "green" and "urban" (by whatever standard that may be held). The standard may be by competition - good, socially responsible design and construction should be rewarded and the rest should not happen at all or at the developers' risk.

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Cleveland looks to trim residential tax abatement

All emphasis below is mine, but it looks like the Mayor has been listening to some source of wisdom, Roldo or realNEO^ perhaps?

Cleveland looks to trim residential tax abatement


2:12 pm, April 10, 2007

The Jackson administration is proposing to scale back residential tax abatement in the city of Cleveland.

Daryl Rush, the city’s director of community development, told city council’s community and economic development committee this morning that it is recommending that property tax abatement be reduced from the across-the-board 100% for 15 years at present to as little as 100% for seven years on some new construction.

It also would encourage energy efficiency by giving housing that meets energy-reducing standards an extra five years of tax abatement.

The administration plan also would extend tax abatement to include more rehabilitated homes.

Several council members, who have seen considerable new construction in their wards, reacted negatively to the proposal.

“Something is working and you want to reduce it,” said downtown councilman Joe Cimperman.

West Side councilman Matt Zone said he was concerned that the city would have difficulty competing for new residents with the dozen or so communities surrounding the city that offer 100% tax abatement for 15 years and he was disappointed by a lack of solid information to back up the administration’s recommendation.

“I don’t think we are (seeing) enough yet to change the current policy,” he said.

The city currently offers 100% tax abatement on the increase in value of new construction, as well as on some rehabilitation, for 15 years. The mayor’s plan would retain that level only for new construction of low-income housing.

However, abatement would be reduced to 100% for seven years for traditional market-rate housing — both single-family and multi-family construction — and to 100% for 12 years for energy-efficient housing.

The administration also wants to expand the availability of tax abatement on the renovation of existing housing. The abatement on the increase in taxes due to a rise in home value from these home improvements would range from seven years to 12 years. Long-time city residents have complained that they have to pay full property taxes while their newly arrived neighbors pay little tax.

Mr. Rush took issue with a Cleveland State University study presented to city council earlier this year that strongly supported retaining the current level of tax abatement. That study included a survey that found that 60% of home owners with tax abatement said they would not have purchased their home in the city without tax abatement.

Mr. Rush said other factors, including cheap land available from the city’s land bank and a city second-mortgage program, will continue to make the city attractive.

The Mayor's plan sounds smart to me - perhaps still too much

Thanks John - this sounds like plenty of incentives, including extra push for affordable, green and rebab - I like it. Everything I plan to do would be treated very favorably.

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Urban, yes. Green, not

Urban, yes. Green, not quite.

We should be building (and re-building) in already urbanized areas.  The perveted housing market prevents people from effectively reusing and effectively using land.  It creates a need to always go outward which is unhealthy for the planet as well as the pocketbooks (the costs are just hidden very well or shoved onto the poor).

As far as middle to low-income homeowners, building green isn't necessarily an option because, unfortunately, building green at the residential level is still cost-prohibitive.  We don't need to take shortcuts like lead-based paint manufacturers (whoops, did I say that?!) but we have to find ways to make home-level greening affordable and make it available to those with less green.

Derek Arnold -

Green for Less Green

Damn that is a good slogan - let's make that a theme for a section of realneo or in the broader community - whatever - the sooner we get all people at all income and other cultural and social levels and ages to do green things the better. The more gree for less green the better. Evelyn and I have replaced all our old bulbs with low energy bulbs as we could afford. We carpool and drive as little as possible. Keep heat at 67 - don't use AC. At the Hough Bakery Building we'll do one green thing at a time, as we can afford. Already, the Williams only heat what they use - largely from the heat created in the kitchen from cooking - and they keep the lights off. We'll replce lighting and add green roofs - go geothermal - add some solar and wind - etc.

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Derek, I have appreciated your recent Realneo comments on Sam Miller, the stealth attempt of Cleveland Clinic and UCI to raise from the dead the old Clark Freeway (Disadvantaged Triangle Freeway), and on tax abatements.  You are wise beyond your years - ie not "green".

As to LEED green building - there is considerable hype about this finally in vogue architectural/construction area.

But without getting into Photovoltaics and garden roofs and the other fancy stuff, houses can gain huge energy cost savings just by increasing wall studs from 4" to 6" and attic insulation cavity to 16" rather than an 8 or 10 inch rafter.  The cost for the larger lumber isn't much more, and the savings are huge - for the life of the house!  And any carpenter can do it...

But meanwhile, Ohio building code continues to allow 4 inch thick exterior walls...really a crime..

Mayor Jackson is wise to shorten the abatement period and also to tie abatement to energy efficiency.

Wouldn't older houses have that larger timber?

Jeff, in the past you wrote of the issues with older houses having rehab challenges, but at least it would seem they have the larger timbers that allow for more insulation - if you do a complete rehad then the skeleton is better to support the next 100 years of a building's life, and you may have nice wood trim etc. Like that $10,000 house we saw in East Cleveland... if you tear out all the interior walls etc then it may be best to start with the big wood of an old house like that, even if only some of that is sound.

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Jeff... Thanks for the


Thanks for the compliments.  This is exactly what I was talking about.  We need more support and awareness on the government side on conservation - geared measures, like insulation.  If you can't make your house use less resources, get the most out of the resources that are used.

Derek Arnold -

Abatement debate heats up again

    Good points made about the importance of having a program to address existing homes' low energy performance, Derek. It's one thing to know about solutions such as blow-in insulation and attic insulation, it's another to have a real program that pays for it and makes the necessary improvements (I don't know of any here, but the cities that Bill Clinton's foundation selected this week for just such conservation measures must be jumping for joy).

I agree with Roldo and Mayor Jackson that tax abatement needs to be sensitive to affordable housing and have some adjustments when it's stimulating the market by neighborhood.

And Jackson's proposal to include an energy performance criteria makes good fiscal sense, especially for the home owner. Energy Star homes are being built on a regular basis in this country because the cost-benefit ratio works. Energy Star lowers the cost of homeownership by reducing energy bills by 15 percent. A $2,500 increase for energy savings features might add about $15 to a homeowner’s mortgage, the Cleveland Green Building Coalition reports. However, the home could save as much as $35 a month on energy bills, which results in a $20 a month savings for the homeowner.

I've been following efforts to persuade Cleveland City Council that this makes good sense, and to act now, as 24 other cities have, to green tax abatements, rather than waiting three years to get the ball rolling. If you're interested in writing a letter to council before next Monday when they'll vote to renew abatements, check out this post.