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…While property tax relief measures are often intended to aid specific groups, basic supply and demand analysis predicts that an unintended consequence of this particular kind of tax relief is that, on the margin, it increases demand for homeownership among its expected beneficiaries. Accordingly, we examine two property tax relief measures in Virginia that applied to disabled veterans and the elderly, finding that these policy changes had an immediate effect on home prices after the voters approved them on Election Day. Overall, we find that home prices rose by approximately 5 percent in response to the increase in demand for homeownership. Indeed, the tax relief policies provide a unique, quasi-experimental methodological setting where the treatment is exogenously assigned to specific groups within this market. We find that the effect was as much as an 8.1 percent price appreciation for homes in areas with high concentrations of veterans, 7.3 percent in areas with more seniors, and 7.4 percent for senior preferred homes in all areas. The effect was highest, 9.3 percent, in areas with high concentrations of seniors and veterans, which translates to about $18,900, or roughly full capitalization, for the average home. Conversely, the tax relief measures had little if any effect on homes in areas with fewer potential beneficiaries.
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management
February 21, 2018