The Whimperer cheerfully supports the City of Portland giving the developers of the proposed Alexan apartment tower a ten-year, $7.5 million property tax break, which is supposed to subsidize the rental of fifteen percent of the apartments, which is 48 of 319. The 48 affordable units will all be studios. The Planning Commission recommended approval of the tax break (PDF minutes from July 10, 2005 here) and the City Council is set to vote on it tomorrow. I've been opposed to the tax break for several reasons, one of which came into focus after a conversation with one of the Genial Old Codgers of my acquaintance.
This particular G.O.C. occasionally asks me for advice about a business proposition. When I've suggested that he pay a little extra for something, he's answered with the pithy phrase, "Kid, don't forget that it's my money you're giving away."
Whose money would the City be giving away if it grants this tax break? City taxes are less than half the load of the typical Multnomah County property tax bill -- I think about 25% to 30% is usual. So of the $7.5 million that the City would excuse the developer from paying, only about $2 million (if I understand this rightly) would actually be the City's money. The rest of it would come from, or rather, not be paid to, the school district, the Port of Portland, and the variety of special districts and bond levies that adorn our property tax statements. It's easy to be a big spender when it's someone else's money.
Families with children won't rent the subsidized studios at the Alexan, which will be only 514 square feet each, about the size of a double garage. I would nevertheless be pleased if a G.O.C. at Portland Public Schools would call the City and say, "Kid, don't forget that it's my money you're giving away."