Our View of the Times – January 15

On January 15, 2014, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

powderhouse_viewThe surprise spike in commercial property tax bills, in some cases increasing anywhere from 50 to over 100 percent, is less likely to have a trickle-down effect on businesses and their customers and could be more like the economic equivalent of standing at the base of Niagara Falls as property owners pass on the increase that probably seemed like a joke – a cruel one at that – when they opened their bill from the city.

Whether it’s a bubble bursting or an area such as Davis Square being a victim of its own success, the fallout from the increased valuations could either show up on menus as $15 diet Cokes or, in a worst-case scenario, a rash of restaurants closing up.

A row of empty storefronts would certainly be “self-corrective” in bringing values back down to rational levels. Hopefully, though, that vision turns out to be more Henny-Penny thinking than prophecy.

The shock to commercial property owners more than likely foreshadows what could be a truly devastating and over-the-top jump in home valuations, effectively squashing the idea that the city, or at least the majority of it, can in any way be considered affordable to anyone other than people who have no problem, either financially or philosophically, paying ridiculous sums for either housing or a cup of coffee (or whatever chai, espresso, latte beverage they prefer).

The Chamber of Commerce should be advocating on behalf of the business owners who are caught between honoring their leases and pleasing their customers, and hopefully it steps up and does so soon. Otherwise, we all will pay.

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