Property Tax Relief and Resident Mobility
(Public and Non-Profit Management and Finance)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Growing property values are often a boon for local governments, which enjoy increased capacity to raise property taxes from an appreciating assessed value base. At the same time, rising property values are a significant challenge for many homeowners, who face increased property tax bills on growing home wealth (Martin & Beck, 2018). Rising property taxes may involuntarily displace some long-time homeowners, particularly low-income and elderly residents, who bought their property long ago at a much lower price than its current assessed value.
To counter this challenge, many local governments offer targeted property tax relief programs aimed at increasing the affordability of homeownership in their jurisdiction. Local governments have long offered tax relief to owner occupied households, usually through a property tax credit, exemption, or tax cap. In recent years, many local governments have introduced additional property tax relief for elderly homeowners, usually with the goal of incentivizing these residents to “age in place.” These targeted property tax relief programs carry a significant revenue cost to local governments while also distorting the horizontal equity of the property tax. One study found that a property tax exemption to elderly residents cost Cobb County, Georgia about $55 billion in 2010 (Banzhaf et al. 2016).
Prior work shows that elderly homeowners are mobile and sensitive to property taxes (Shan, 2010), and that local property tax relief programs are associated with an increase in the population of seniors in those jurisdictions (Bahnzaf et al., 2019). However, it is unclear whether these programs actually encourage elderly homeowners to remain in place, or represent a windfall to homeowners who had no intention of leaving their current residence in the first place. Further, previous studies rely on social survey data, rather than parcel or transaction data.
This panel presents new evidence on the impact of a variety of targeted property tax relief programs on homeowner mobility. Each of the three papers use transaction or parcel-level data to determine the impact of three distinct property tax relief programs on home sales, property values, or the demographic composition of communities using quasi-experimental research designs. Together, these papers offer timely evidence on the impact of a novel public policy that is rapidly diffusing across U.S. local governments in a variety of geographic and statutory contexts.