Impact Fees, Annunciation House, and Tropicana Homes

Here’s an great article from Diego Mendoza-Moyers at about the subsidies El Paso taxpayers give to local home builders.

As housing developments extend further out into the desert along the periphery of El Paso’s city limits, El Paso Water executives have figured residents within the city are subsidizing home builders’ costs by an average of $2 to $3 on their monthly water bills, CEO John Balliew said in December. That’s because El Paso home builders are paying just a fraction of what it actually costs the utility to provide water and sewer services to increasingly outlying neighborhoods, according to consultants hired by El Paso Water.

The utility’s consultants said the city’s home builders should be paying El Paso Water $15.6 million extra per year – or thousands of additional dollars per new home they build – to cover the utility’s construction costs. 

The City Council adopted impact fees in 2009, and they haven’t raised them since.

Do you know who benefits from those low impact fees? Tropicana Homes.

Do you know who owns Tropicana Homes? Bobby and Randy Bowling.

Coincidentally, a couple of guys named Bobby and Randall Bowling contributed $10,000 each to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, his latest campaign financing report shows. A couple named Randall J and Paige Bowling also contributed $10,000, and someone named Robert Bowling kicked in $10,000.

Ken Paxton recently brought suit against the El Paso church group Annunciation House, accusing “the religious group of smuggling humans across the southern border.”

Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres.

One comment

  1. This is right on the mark and the issue of impact fees has been bouncing around for years. One problem is that I don’t think the city has anyone competent enough to actually determine how fees should be assessed. It requires an outside expert who is not tied to the Usual Suspects here, e.g., Urban Land Institute or the like. Foe what it’s worth, I wrote a piece on Brutus’s blog about 10 years ago that I quote in part below and that addresses this subject with my SWAG on how we might handle it, at least for lands sold by the PSB for development. Take it with a grain of salt.

    “Whether there is master-planned or piecemeal development, the city has to find a way to force builders to pay for the costs of development that will otherwise be loaded onto the taxpayer. If we’re going to have growth, then let’s find way to socialize its benefits instead of privatizing them as the current model does.

    Impact fees…are difficult in Texas because such fees are explicitly identified to incremental development, i.e., the city has to use the fees for their intended purpose or risk recapture by the builder. This is only fair but it requires a level of planning-to-action that city hall is incompetent to do. Need I say, “San Jacinto Plaza?” Then again, can you imagine the outcry from the builders if realistic impact fees of $10K to $20K per lot were charged? The impact fee route may not be politically feasible here.

    But another form that we could consider is for the PSB to levy a surcharge on property sales that is not specific to ancillary infrastructure, as with impact fees. In this scenario, the PSB could simply estimate the number of housing units that might be built on a parcel and add, say, $20K per unit to the price of the property. Since the PSB owns the property being sold, they are just asking the purchaser to pay a higher price on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, not as an impact fee. This “extra” money can then be deposited into a fund for the city to use for the otherwise unfunded infrastructure, but not specifically tied to the sold parcel and, hence, not legally an impact fee. I hope.

    Whether with higher impact fees or a PSB surcharge this is what has to be done in some form or we just keep getting poorer in spite of our growth as costs are transferred from builders onto taxpayers. Will housing costs go up? Of course, but that is not a bad thing. Housing is too cheap here now because of massive overbuilding for many years. “

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