DC Council Cutting Vacant Property Tax Just As It Starts Working

Hot on the heels of my ebullient post that the vacant property tax was starting to bear fruit comes the news that the Council is going to cut the tax.  And it’s going to cost the city $10.8 million (although not until 2011) at a time when we’re facing a massive deficit.

And why?  Councilmember Mendelson is quoted as stating that the higher tax rate makes it, “difficult for some property owners to sell or put their property back to use.”  This is bogus reasoning fails to consider that properties that are either for sale or have current building permits for in-progress construction are automatically exempted from the higher rate.

Furthermore, at the last ANC 2F meeting Councilmember Evans attended, he stated unequivocally that the issue of cutting the vacant property tax was going to be dropped, and instead the Council would be seeking ways to better differentiate between properties that were problems and those that were not (ANC 2F May 2009 meeting minutes, page 3). Clearly, something flip-flopped Councilmember Evans’ opinion in the last three months, since it seems he now supports a continued free-ride for the longest-standing blights in our neighborhood.

So, to summarize, we’re cutting a tax that is not only just starting to serve its purpose, but that is also raising money for the city when it needs it most.  This move is both counterproductive and foolish.