Capitalization of federal taxes, the relative price of housing, and urban form: density and sorting effects
The authors investigate the impact of the tax treatment of owner-occupied housing on urban form in an economy in which high- and low-income households choose among city and suburban communities. Because housing tax policies differentially affect the relative, after-tax price of housing for high- and low-income households, and because the extent of capitalization of housing tax policies can differ across city and suburban communities, their analysis finds that housing tax policies can affect not only the density of the metropolitan area, but also can influence where rich and poor households choose to live.> > The authors also show that the impacts of housing tax policies differ depending upon whether land use constraints such as suburban large lot zoning exist. If there are no land use constraints present, increasing a subsidy to home ownership that is positively correlated with the income of the owner tends to lead to the decentralization of both rich and poor, although there are conditions under which the rich would choose to concentrate in the central city. The ambiguity of the effect on the choices of high income households suggests that impacts of the federal tax treatment of housing may differ across metropolitan areas.> > In the presence of binding large lot zoning in the suburbs, the rich have a greater incentive to decentralize while the poor are constrained to the city. Thus, housing tax policy that affects the relative price of land differentially for the rich and poor could have helped exacerbate the intense residential sorting by income that we see in many parts of the United States. Importantly, our analysis of community choice is not driven by different preferences for city or suburb that may be associated with the income elasticity of housing demand. Rather, it results from changes in relative after-tax housing prices faced by poor and rich households. Determining the empirical relevance of prices versus preferences in this matter should be an urgent task for future research.
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- Stephen G. Cecchetti & Peter Rupert, 1996. "Mortgage interest deductibility and housing prices," Economic Commentary, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, issue Feb.
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