Ty Hapworth Answers Our Questions
Taxes, Development, and Housing
QUESTION 1 – Salems tax rate, both residential and commercial, has consistently gone up around 2% every year. Do you feel that this “stability” best serves the city, or should we take another approach? Please be specific as to the impact on city services that your approach would bring.
While Salem’s residential and commercial tax rates have actually decreased over the last two years, assessed values continue to rise, contributing to rising taxes that fall just under the levy. Our neighbors need some relief and I would recommend two initiatives:
- Commercial properties pay approximately double the residential tax rate. I believe we should leverage the coming SiFi network to attract high-tech/higher tax-paying employers to Salem. We need to stop thinking of Salem as only a bedroom and tourist community. If we can take advantage of Salem’s new fiber network with the pool of talent that we already have in our vibrant, walkable city we could strengthen our tax base and provide some relief to residents.
- We should update our zoning codes to encourage traditional and smaller scale development patterns which are more in keeping with Salem’s historic character and include smaller lot sizes and more mixed uses. These developments would serve as better incubators to local small businesses, and have been shown to provide more tax revenue on a set parcel of land than larger commercial and residential developments.
QUESTION 2 – Salem has, and is, undergoing a long-term development boom that has impacted every neighborhood in the city. Should Salem take steps to slow development?
We need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Rather than arguing over density on the extremes, let’s talk about delivering quality to our neighborhoods. To me, that means three things:
- We need to make transit a priority city-wide if we are going to continue to grow. That means better sidewalks, a working shuttle system and bike lanes that connect easily and safely to amenities and mass transit. Allowing density without providing the right transit options is a recipe for disaster.
- We need density that contributes to great neighborhoods rather than dominating them. This means mixes of housing types, preservation of historic buildings, smaller lot sizes, green spaces, and ensuring that we have a healthy mix of income levels. Density and development need to coexist with Salem’s character and soul.
- Design matters. Salem has a rich architectural heritage and we need to define a set of standards around quality of materials, height, design elements, etc.
To build dense in Salem we need to create a Community Benefits Agreement from developers. If developers are going to build dense they should be required to pay into the creation and maintenance of amenities such as transit, green spaces, historic preservation and public art.
QUESTION 3 – Entry level workers, lower income families, hospitality employees, and seniors find Salem to be an unaffordable place to live. How can we best plan to meet the housing needs across all demographics in Salem?
We need to start by acknowledging that we are in the midst of two separate crises that appear to be one. Those are Income Inequality and Housing Scarcity. I think we need to tackle those separately. To address Income Inequality we need to:
- Pass an inclusionary zoning ordinance that mandates 15% of new homes constructed be provided to people and families who are making 60% or less of our area’s average median income. The prices for these homes must be set to ensure these families spend less than 30% of their income on housing.
- Set an example as a city by promoting pro-worker practices. This includes hiring contractors only after we have checked them against the Attorney General’s wage theft database, and ensuring that any tax incentives awarded be contingent upon developers proving they meet our pro-worker standards including pay, benefits and safety compliance.
- Demand that all developers receiving Tax Incentive Financing (TIF) present a clear and detailed plan with measurable metrics stating what their proposed development will bring to the neighborhood in terms of benefits. If developers are unable to meet these metrics by an agreed upon timeline, that tax money should be returned to the taxpayers.
To begin to address our Housing Scarcity problem we need to:
- Pass an Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance in conjunction with a plan to encourage and advise residents on how to create ADUs on their properties. ADUs, also known as “in-law apartments” or “granny flats,” are a low impact way to add small, generally affordable units to the market by freeing up homeowners to rent out a garage apartment, basement unit or third floor suite. This will benefit young people, seniors, existing homeowners and tends to be a bridge between these communities.
- Create a clear path toward the adaptive reuse of our former municipal and religious buildings. We can leverage our housing market to preserve our historic assets and create much needed homes. This is a solution that has enjoyed broad support from our community.
- As stated in my answer to Question 2 above, I believe we need a Community Benefits Agreement that allows for density but requires developers to subsidize the amenities that create strong neighborhoods.