As promised, here is our first Board of County Supervisors report card on balanced growth.

Regrettably, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors [BOCS] voted in the early morning hours of 17 October against proffer reform. In other words, a majority of the BOCS voted against residential developers paying more of their fair share of what residential development actually costs the county government. So, as a county taxpayer you will continue to pay much of this cost, which in effect means that you will continue to indirectly subsidize the residential development industry. (See Ralph Stephenson’s speech below for our views on proffer reform.)

Voting for proffer reform: Chairman Stewart and Supervisors May and Stirrup

Voting against proffer reform: Supervisors Barg, Caddigan, Covington, Jenkins, and Nohe

We would like to thank Chairman Stewart, Supervisor May, Supervisor Stirrup, Chairman Candidate Pandak, Supervisor Candidate Royce, and Supervisor Candidate Keen for their support for proffer reform. In an 8 October e-mail to PWCBG, Ms. Pandak noted: “As County Attorney, in the late 1990’s I helped develop the first County proffer process by which proffers requested of developers were designed to reflect the cost of public infrastructure created by proposed developments… The proffer guidelines have been updated over the years and they need to be updated again, as recommended by County staff. They must better reflect current costs and impacts.”

Stay tuned for future supervisor balanced growth report cards.

Ralph Stephenson’s speech at Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth’s 9 October 2007 press conference at the McCoart building:

For an industry or company to try to force taxpayers to subsidize a product that is already in oversupply or glut may be good politics for some, but it is not good economic policy. Nor does it represent good government or the best interests of taxpayers.

As noted repeatedly in recent articles in the Wall Street Journal, including a page one article on Sep 26, the housing market is experiencing a serious downturn largely due to overproduction and oversupply. Quote: “[Lennar Homes] Chief Executive Stuart Miller said the problems are broad-based and stem from an oversupply of homes, turmoil in the mortgage market, and weak consumer confidence…

“…Sales of existing homes tumbled…in August to…the slowest [pace] in five years, the National Assoc. of Realtors said [Sep 25th]…Analysts cite excess supply in forecasting that an upturn in [housing] sales and prices may not come until 2009.” End quote.

In Prince William County, there is already an oversupply of housing; houses are selling more slowly and prices have fallen considerably; and reportedly an additional 40-50,000 homes have been approved but not yet built.

So why would the Board of County Supervisors want to increase the glut of residential housing in Prince William County by subsidizing residential development at taxpayers expense? This is, in effect, what the Board is doing when it keeps impact fees and proffers required of residential developers at levels well below the true infrastructure burdens created by residential development. When you think of the infrastructure burdens created by residential development, think of heavily congested roads, overcrowded schools, rising property taxes, damage to the environment, falling property values and rapid deterioration of older neighborhoods when there is an oversupply of housing, etc.

Subsidies to business by government sometimes make sense when vital goods or services are in short supply. But none of those conditions apply or will apply to our county’s housing market anytime in the foreseeable future. Indirect taxpayer-funded subsidies to the housing industry make no economic sense, are not good government, and are certainly not in the interests of taxpayers. They are, in essence, corporate welfare that benefits only the housing industry and its political clients…