Who Benefits from Targeted Property Tax Relief? Evidence from Virginia Elections

Source: Jeremy G. Moulton, Bennie D. Waller, Scott A. Wentland, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Early View, First published: February 21, 2018
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From the abstract:
This study examines the market impact of targeted property tax relief, which is critical for understanding who exactly benefits from a widely used local policy. Specifically, we investigate this in the context of two statewide ballot measures in Virginia that provided property tax relief or heightened expectations for future relief intended to aid disabled veterans and seniors, respectively. Using residential multiple listing service microdata from Virginia, results from a regression discontinuity analysis show that once the 2010 tax relief measures passed on Election Day, property values rose sharply in response to the sudden increase in demand for homeownership among the targeted groups. We find that senior preferred housing and properties within areas with higher proportions of seniors and veterans experienced the highest price appreciation, while areas with fewer veterans or seniors saw little impact. The findings suggest that this type of policy provides an immediate benefit to current homeowners, thereby offsetting benefits for subsequent homeowners within the targeted groups. This effect represents an unintended consequence of targeted property tax relief as a policy tool more generally, as immediate capitalization into home prices subsequently increases the cost of housing for many individuals the relief was intended to help.