Available at: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/theses/2044
Date of Award
Master of City and Regional Planning
City and Regional Planning
After a 100-year history, traditional zoning practices are being challenged as a contributing factor in a number of social, heath and economic problems facing cities in the United States. In this context, form based codes have emerged as a possible alternative way for cities to guide development. Growing out of the New Urbanist movement, form based codes frequently mix uses, allow for a greater variety of housing types and encourage development that is both denser and more compact. Despite an established literature which links land-use regulations, and zoning in particular, to fiscal outcomes, the impacts that form based codes have on public finance in the growing number of cities which have adopted them has yet to be fully investigated. The goal of this research is to examine if and how form based codes alter property tax and sales tax generation in the cities that adopt them. To examine the relationship between form based codes and public finance a series of two multivariate regression analyses were conducted using historic property and sales tax data. The first regression analysis was performed using the full list of 122 cities which have adopted form based standards from between 1984 and 2009. In an attempt to limit the diversity of sample cities and improve the ability to generalize results a second regression analysis was performed using a smaller list of 47 cities with populations between 50,000 and 200,000 thousand that had adopted form based standards between 1984 and 2009. The results of the first analysis established that a statistically significant positive relationship existed between the presence of form based standards which were implemented citywide and observed property tax revenue both in total and on a per capita basis. Similarly, a statistically significant positive relationship between the presence of form based standards implemented at the neighborhood level and total property tax revenue was observed. No significant relationship was found between the presence of neighborhood level standards and per capita property tax revenue. Further no significant relationship was found between form based standards and sales tax revenue. In general, these findings support the theory that form based codes and the development they allow, does alter the amount of property tax a city collects, but does not support the theory that form based codes affect sales tax revenues by facilitating the development of a more conducive urban, walkable environment or for any other reason. The results of the second regression analysis using data from cities with populations between 50,000 and 200,000 showed a significant positive relationship between the presences of citywide form based standards and total property tax revenue and per capita property tax revenue. Analysis of sales tax data showed a positive relationship between total sales tax revenue and the presence of form based standards at the neighborhood level. No other significant relationship between form based standards and sales tax revenue was observed. Similar, to analysis of all cities, the results for cities with population of 50,000 to 200,000 support the theory that form based codes and the development they allow does alter the amount of property tax a city collects, and that form based codes do not affect sales tax revenues except in the case of codes adopted at the neighborhood level, where a generally positive relationship was identified at the 10% confidence interval. Following this multivariate regression analysis, a case study of Saratoga Springs, New York was completed. Located in the far reaches of the Albany Metropolitan Area, Saratoga Springs developed as a popular tourist destination in the mid 1800’s. After experiencing economic decline in line with that of its peer cities in the mid to late 20th century, Saratoga Springs has experience a boom and now boast some of the highest home values in Upstate New York. In 2003 the city was one of the first in country to adopt form based standards, which have guided a significant amount of development in the city’s historic downtown as the city re-emerged as a popular tourist destination. Since the adoption of form based standards in Saratoga Springs both property tax and sales tax receipts have doubled.