Dallas Can Make Housing Affordable Again

February 21, 2024
Vance Ginn
Dallas, Housing, Local Budgets, Local Government, Property Tax, Spending

This commentary was originally published at The Dallas Express here. It is being republished with permission from the author.

Home “owners” in Dallas and surrounding cities find themselves grappling with the weight of unaffordability as property taxes soar, increasing by $120 million despite the touted cuts at the end of 2023. A recent study reveals the burden on renters in Texas and nationwide, with many paying over 30% of their monthly income on housing. A factor contributing to this rising cost of renting, and housing in general, is soaring property taxes.

The predicament stems from excessive state and local spending and purported property tax “cuts” that too often merely shift the burden through exemptions. Renters, technically anyone with a monthly payment or a mortgage since homeowners are just renting from the government, bear the brunt of this financial strain, emphasizing the urgent need for fiscal reform.

Late last year, Dallas residents witnessed a modest one-cent property tax reduction rate, with surrounding cities experiencing varying degrees of reduction. Fort Worth saw a 4-cent reduction, and McKinney a 3-cent reduction. Despite these adjustments, most cities, including Dallas, faced increased property taxes eclipsed by rising spending and housing appraisals.

Even in Plano, recognized for its low property taxes in the DFW area, homeowners will endure higher monthly property tax amounts due to home valuation hikes. The incongruity between property tax decreases and housing cost increases is alarming, prompting a closer look at the numbers.

According to Axios, the average taxable value of homes in Denton County rose from approximately $402,000 in 2022 to around $449,000 in 2023. Similarly, the average market value of Collin County homes increased from about $513,000 in 2022 to roughly $584,000 in 2023. 

One doesn’t need to be a mathematician to recognize how a property tax decrease of even a few cents doesn’t begin to keep pace with skyrocketing home valuations and rent. No wonder 20% of Dallas homebuyers looked to get out of the city last year. 

The crux of the issue lies in reining in local spending. The axiom holds: the burden of government is not how much it taxes but how much it spends. 

Dallas, with its escalating budget that reached a historic high last year, renders proposed property tax cuts inconsequential. My new research released by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility highlights how property taxes continued to go up last year by $165 million, even with the Texas Legislature passing $12.7 billion in new property tax relief. This ended up being the second largest property tax relief in Texas history, not the largest as many politicians have been claiming since last July, which is what I wrote then

The best path for Texans is to finally have their right to own their prosperity instead of renting from the government by paying property taxes forever. This can be done by restraining state and local government spending and using resulting state surpluses to reduce school property tax rates until they’re zero. And by local governments, including Dallas, using their resulting surpluses to reduce their property tax rates until they’re zero.

Dallas must adopt a spending limit, one that does not permit the budget to exceed the rate of population growth rate plus inflation – a measure aligned with what the average taxpayer can afford. Performance-based budgeting and independent efficiency audits, preferably conducted by private auditors, should identify opportunities for improvements and reductions in ineffective programs, helping provide more opportunities for property tax relief.

Dallas leaders can empower their constituents by redirecting taxpayer money to them while funding limited government. The adoption of these strategic measures not only benefits homeowners but extends its positive impact to renters and business owners, providing tangible rewards for their hard work and fostering a more economically vibrant community.

Dallas leaders are responsible for ushering in a new era of fiscal responsibility that ensures affordability for all residents and supports sustained economic growth. The path to long-lasting property tax relief is clear: let’s seize this opportunity for positive change and secure a brighter, more prosperous future for Dallas.

This commentary was originally published at The Dallas Express here. It is being republished with permission from the author.

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