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What the Housing Crisis Means for State and Local Governments

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Document date: October 01, 2010
Released online: October 12, 2010

Abstract

As the US housing market experiences its largest contraction since the Great Depression, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center took a closer look at the consequences of this crisis for state and local governments in a May 2010 conference.  This article summarizes the conference events.

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Introduction

As the U.S. housing market experiences its largest contraction since the Great Depression, the Lincoln Institute of Land P olicy and the U rban–Brookings Tax Policy Center took a closer look at the consequences of this crisis for state and local governments in a May 2010 conference. A major theme of the discussion was the fallibility of conventional wisdom. For example, some participants questioned whether easy credit was in fact the cause of the housing bubble and thus to blame for the subsequent loss of state and local tax revenues. Papers presented at the conference document the complexities researchers face in determining the causes and lessons of this crisis.

  • While easy credit did motivate homebuyers, its effect was not sufficiently strong to fully account for the housing boom.
  • The housing market downturn was largely predictable, but only by looking at state-level rather than national data.
  • Although state budgets have been battered by fallout from the recession in the form of lower income and sales tax revenue, these declines have been triggered more by the broader economic downturn than by the collapse in housing markets.
  • Local governments seem to have been largely spared the severe budget shortfalls plaguing many states. While housing prices have fallen, property taxes have held up fairly well—supporting city budgets while other revenue sources have shrunk. However, there is great geographic variation in these results.

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Topics/Tags: | Economy/Taxes


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