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In a pandemic the city of Tamarac rushed to bailout the real estate developers with a tax cut.

Updated: May 14, 2020

The memorandum from the director of community development reads: “ Based on the existent state of emergency, staff believes that it is in the best interest of public health, safety, and welfare of the residents and business of the City of Tamarac to delay the imposition of New Development Impact Fees established by the City”.

Yesterday, after holding the required public hearings, back to back, during the two most recent commission meetings, they decided to exempt from impact fees all development for which a building permit is filed prior to January of 2021. The state of emergency exists in the city since March 13th, 2020 and the best use they could find for the community development department, since then, was to develop an ordinance to bailout the real estate developers and rush it through the approval process in April and May, while the constituents were uncertain about their health, job and food security.

They say they did it for the residents, but the truth is that the residents will pay for the deficit from this decision. They elected to create a treasury hole that the future taxpayer must plug or suffer, but the immediate relief goes to the rich corporations instead of the pockets of the residents currently in distress.

Developers hate impact fees and have always lobbied against them, arguing that they discourage construction of new homes and make the ones that are built less affordable. Conversely, impact fees have existed in Florida for the last 50 years and the steep growth rate during this period is indisputable. Moreover, the likelihood that the developers will discount the new home prices based on their impact fees savings, is close to inexistent. Most likely, they will enthusiastically sell the new homes at market price. Their savings on impact fees will just make their profit higher. The developers lobby the government to get richer, not for altruistic causes like settling on a profit cap for the sake of making homes more affordable. Interestingly, the city staff and commission believe on the developers’ altruism.

The director of community development concluded that since the impact fees are typically a pass-through cost from the developer to the consumer, by temporarily removing a source of revenue that is needed more than ever, the city will be accomplishing their goal of providing a more vibrant community. Being benevolent to them, this is naivety in its pure form. No new construction permitted this year will be priced lower than any equivalent inventory that was sold before COVID-19. The developer will take the free money and build at the pace that better suits them, holding the new inventory until the economy is back to normal and the prices reach their sweet spot. Our government is making the community more vibrant for the real estate corporations while they transit through our city.

As the city will not generate revenues through impact fees, they will shift the cost of updating the existing services to accommodate the growth onto current homeowners or simply let the quality of life deteriorate. At this stage is when the residents will find out that the written words about protecting the health, safety and welfare of the residents were pure demagogy.

If the residents will pay for this deficit with their future quality of life or financial assets, why didn’t they help the residents presently with a property tax cut? The residents need the extra cash right now. But the priority of the incumbent politicians is clear, they just care to ensure that the real estate corporations can accomplish or even improve their profit margins, and they are so invested in paving the road for these corporations that are willing to put the residents’ wellbeing on the line.

A recent and small example of how they manage the deficit by reaching out to the pockets of the residents, is the 5000% increase, also approved unanimously, of the filing fee to run for a seat in the commission. The argument to support this slap in the face of Democracy, is to pay for a new filing software. The fee was $10 and has been raised to $500. This is not a problem for the incumbents that get from the city a job with full benefits, however, how many hourly employees can afford to work and fast for a whole week to be able to attain their constitutional right?

Is anyone else interested in calculating all the lost revenues, let us say up to October 2020, from the tax cut given to the real estate developers?

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