Apr 25, 2024 - News

Wu pitches commercial tax hike to counter tumbling values

Animated illustration of three cranes raising the neon numbers 6, 1, and 7.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Mayor Michelle Wu wants to temporarily shift some of the city's tax burden away from residential property owners if commercial property values take a nosedive.

Why it matters: Wu wants to head off a situation in which decreasing commercial property values in the coming years force the city to rely even more on residential owners.

  • If commercial property values tank, she wants building owners to temporarily pay 200% of the residential tax rate in the short term to take pressure off residential taxpayers in the long term.

Business-minded city councilors aren't happy with Wu's one-size-fits-all approach and fear a greater tax burden on commercial property will stop investors from locating in Boston.

The big picture: The future of major cities' downtowns, including their commercial real estate values, depends on how economically diverse they can become in a post-COVID world, according to new research from the University of Toronto's School of Cities.

What they found: Cell phone activity in 62 metropolitan areas in the U.S. and Canada shows office vacancy rates increasing, but after-hours activity is compensating for fewer midday workers.

  • Cell phone activity in downtown Boston is 61% of its pre-pandemic high during working hours, but jumps to 89% in the evening.

Southern cities like Tucson, Charlotte, Jacksonville and Houston are seeing urban recovery boosted by nightlife and entertainment. Nashville's arts and tourism-focused downtown is doing particularly well.

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