It seems a good idea, following the North Platte City Council’s strong vote for a second TIF-aided housing project, to recall the basic conclusion of the city’s 2018 housing study:
Whatever type of housing problem you see here, you’re right.
We need more new but relatively cheaper homes and apartments that younger professionals looking to move or stay here will find desirable and affordable.
We also need to rehabilitate our well-worn but stout older homes, whether for sale or for rent, for older or younger folks who don’t want to share walls with neighbors.
We need to clear away structures beyond repair, freeing up space for new homes. And we need good, basic homes, new or rehabilitated, for lower-income residents who can be successful homeowners with some help.
You name it, we need it.
We need everyone willing to tackle our housing challenge and help us diversify our local economy.
(By the way, it’s not a choice between working on housing or recruiting new businesses. The two go hand in hand.)
We need builders who are interested in tackling our housing challenge but need our community’s help — including tax increment financing — to do it.
We need the North Platte and Lincoln partners in Pacific Place Apartments, whose plan to add 48 units with TIF assistance won critical council support Tuesday night.
The council’s 7-1 vote was identical to the one last fall that enabled local homebuilder Lonnie Parsons’ 37-unit, TIF-aided single-family development now under way.
Along with another 7-1 vote Tuesday for a long-term “workforce housing incentive plan,” the council has reinforced what we said here recently: North Platte is not giving up.
But we cannot say this strongly enough:
We also need our neighbors who already are toiling on our housing task, whether they need or want TIF or any other assistance.
As Tuesday’s council meeting made clear, some folks are eschewing TIF while doing what they can to revitalize our older housing stock for rentals with their own resources.
We thank them, too.
As Community Redevelopment Authority Chairman Mike Jacobson said Tuesday night, TIF might be able to help some of them do a little more — if they should want to explore that option.
Do we need those who don’t need TIF? Or those that do?
We can debate forever whether it ought to take TIF to get some people to build in this community in which we rightly take so much pride.
Sadly, TIF often is necessary for most developers to at least break even. They have to feed themselves and their employees, too.
If would-be developers hope to turn a fast buck or fleece us, that’s why we elect leaders and pass laws: to flush them out at the start.
But TIF does not give any developer one cent of our tax money up front. It never has. We lose nothing. All we do, when we use it, is put off enjoying what we stand to gain.
TIF gives developers a chance to recover some of the money they spend, over no more than 15 years, by tapping new tax dollars generated by the increase in a project’s taxable value.
If they recover their eligible costs faster, our governments start collecting new tax dollars earlier. It’s gone that way almost every time in North Platte.
But if the TIF clock runs out before a developer recovers all eligible costs, too bad. That happened to one developer, Jacobson says.
North Platte for 20 years has kept one hand tied behind its back regarding TIF, waiting for developers to come no matter what, build and start paying increased taxes immediately.
A few have, notably hotels. When it comes to our most critical housing needs, not so much.
Based on Jacobson’s figures, North Platte had gained $72 million in taxable value by 2017 — generating $1.35 million that year for local governments — from those few TIF-aided properties fully on our tax rolls by then.
Perhaps it’s worth being a little less skeptical.
North Platte has been a great city, a statewide leader, for 153 years. It’s time to freshen up and renew ourselves to remain so.
We need to use every legal tool to do that. Responsibly, of course. But we must use them. And that requires a few responsible risks.
It appears we’re becoming more and more willing to take those risks. That will be noticed. It already is.