The Show-Me Institute has written extensively about the negative effects of Tax Increment Financing (TIF), yet cities in Missouri continue to provide us with cases of TIF failure. The city of Richmond Heights, for example, is pursuing plans to redevelop the Hadley Township area just south of Hwy. 40 and east of Hanley Road using TIF to attract potential developers. The real kicker: This will be the fifth attempt in 10 years to redevelop the low-income neighborhood into a commercial area.
Usually when we write to warn cities about the dangers of TIF, we urge them to consider the failures in other cities or other developments. Officials in the city of Richmond Heights need not look past the city’s own history and, in fact, the history of this particular development. Developers have had their eye on the area since the late 1990s, and two of the proposals (from Michelson Commercial Realty in 2006 and United Plaza in 2010) seemed like they might actually get off the ground before collapsing, mostly due to the state of the economy following the 2008 crash. Now, Richmond Heights is at it again, enticing Pace Properties and Menards with promises of substantial amounts of TIF ($27 million and $24 million, respectfully).
The interesting thing about Hadley Township is that it is not an example of TIF having a negative impact on an area because it cost taxpayers millions and showed less-than-impressive returns — though that is exactly what could happen if the current plans move forward. Instead, this is a case of a city dangling TIF like a carrot in front of developers but failing to complete any of the proposals brought forth. This has left homeowners in limbo; many have moved on or let their homes fall into disrepair because of rumors that they will soon be bought and torn down. It seems like a dismal outlook for the area — either taxpayers are on the hook for more than $50 million of the developments or the neighborhood is left in the blighted state it has reached because of the failures of the past decade. There is, however, a third option: Ditch the TIF and encourage private developers to take advantage of the fact that many of the residents are willing to sell. Private developers, not TIF, could provide the solution that the residents of Hadley Township have been seeking for so long.