Urban renewal districts are a powerful tool that allow cities to revitalize areas that have deteriorated. A new district proposed by Talent city officials is not an appropriate use of this tool, and residents should demand a full accounting of the consequences.
The key to urban renewal districts is a clever device called tax increment financing. It essentially allows a district to borrow money up front, spend it to improve blighted neighborhoods, then pay off the debt with the increase in property tax revenue generated by the improvements.
The operative word in that description is “blighted.” Run-down sections of a city, if left alone, will continue to generate property tax revenue at the same rate, increasing gradually as overall property values rise over time.
By adding improvements — street lighting, building facade improvements, renovation of old structures through low-interest loans to property owners — values can be made to rise more quickly.