New Tax Aims to Bring Housing to Empty Lots in Brooklyn

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Mayor elect Bill de Blasio hopes to spur development on vacant lots in the outer boroughs with a new tax on them, Crain’s reported. After a five-year phase-in period, taxes would rise every year on empty land by about $15,300 a year. De Blasio estimates the new tax will raise about $162 million every year — and the money will go toward building affordable housing.

The story speculated that the tax could actually inhibit development by making it difficult for developers to assemble large lots on which to build. The story also quoted a developer who said empty lots in low income neighborhoods attract crime, vermin and garbage and lower surrounding property values. Above, a lot on Broadway between Decatur and Rockaway in Bed Stuy that once contained commercial buildings and has probably been empty since fires devastated this area in the 1970s.

A similar policy is already in effect in Manhattan, where empty lots are taxed at higher commercial rates rather than at one-family rates.

Do you think the tax is a good idea in Brooklyn or would it be better to do something about empty and deteriorating buildings and leave the green spaces alone?

De Blasio Tells Lot Owners to Put up or Pay Up [Crain's]
Photo by Google Maps

8 Comment

  • Result will be a plethora of tax-payer type usages in expensive or gentrifying neighborhoods where upside is greater and in lower rent areas the building of really crappy housing or catering the land to whatever loopholes the government allows – i.e. urban farming, community gardens, etc…

  • I am sure he will be sued immediately.

  • Montrose Morris

    I think it would be great to develop some of those empty lots. I also think it would of even greater import to rehab and bring back to the tax rools many of the hundreds of abandoned and semi-abandoned buildings in this city. That seems like such an obvious and no-duh kind of suggestion. And its time to think outside of the box. Unused factories can become housing, closed and derelict schools, hospitals, office buildings, churches, breweries, police stations, etc, as well as houses and apartment and flats buildings. All over the city. I can think of examples just about everywhere, not just Brooklyn.

    Give some tax advantages to those people who tackle rehabbing out building stock. Some of it is exceptional architecture that’s just been allowed to rot because it can’t be used in its original purpose, or it’s now in an undesirable neighborhood. There will soon be no undesirable neighborhoods at the rate we’re going. Empty lots are easy, how about doing the hard thing – rebuilding what’s already there. It’s even the “green” thing to do, and we’ll have a better city all around.

  • minard

    If the mayor wants to really have an impact on housing he will need to tackle the great, unmentionable: rent regulations. I’m not saying do away with them but revamp them to make them income-dependent. It makes no sense to subsidize people with the wherewithall to pay market rates. Brooklyn Heights is full of people like that for instance, so is the Upper East Side and the Village. But the other factor that is even more important to consider is how even one or two holdouts can prevent the redevelopment of an entire building or block of buildings. Look at the ratty walkups East of Second Avenue in Manhattan. Why haven’t those blocks been redeveloped and made denser and therefore more affordable? The usual scapegoat is landmarking. According to some academics Landmarking freezes the city and prevents redevelopment etc etc. But none of those blocks are landmarked and never will be. Rent-regulation is not mentioned because it is politically incorrect to do so. Sort of the third rail of urban planning.
    But if there was a mechanism whereby tenants could be moved from old, ratty building A to new, improved, building B nearby, there could be a huge resurgence of residential construction in non-landmarked areas, which are basically 95% of the city. It’s something for Diblasio to think about. A Republican could never make such a change, he would be pilloried but maybe a true progressive could.

  • The purpose seems on target, but that does not seem practical. It may rush developers to build small, crappy, cheap and ugly structures just to avoid taxes in the long term. If memory serves, this was the case years ago, and the city filled up with cheap, one story retail buildings called “Tax Buildings”. Maybe in the short term they can avoid the additional tax by having to option to clean up the lots and make pop-up parks, ballfields or community gardens open to the public, with a stipulation that they must do some maintenance with threat of inspection and fines. that would improve communities, reduce crime and the rodent problem.

  • this guy is going to get nowhere with his agenda if he continues to focus on changing behavior by raising taxes. while this may make people who are net takers feel better, it doesn’t actually end up making them better off.