Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: How to prevent the next housing bubble

After a punishing economic recession, the stronger signs in Tampa Bay's housing market are a welcome relief. Increasing home sales, new housing starts and rising prices and values are boosting the outlook for jobs, household income and the tax base. But the real estate collapse offers a cautionary tale, and state and local governments should avoid repeating the very policies that fueled the market bubble, its eventual bust and sprawl from overbuilding that continues to cost taxpayers.

An analysis last week by the Tampa Bay Times' Drew Harwell shows good news nearly across the board. More than 35,000 homes sold in Tampa Bay last year, the most since 2005. The median home sold for $155,000, the highest price since 2008. And rising prices have helped to increase the percentage of homes with equity and the number of homes for sale. While the bay area is still one of the foreclosure capitals of the nation, the housing market is healthier and fewer properties are changing hands under fire-sale conditions.

As the housing market recovers, officials should better manage growth this time around. That requires bringing local regulatory agencies up to speed and smarter planning to push new growth toward urban areas where roads, utilities and other infrastructure already exist. Local governments in the area responded to the recession by cutting staff for permitting and development review. With construction on the rise, there are signs some are now overwhelmed with proposed projects to review. Moving too quickly to handle the rush can result in short-sighted decisions with long-term ramifications.

Area governments also need to revisit the incentives they offered to prime the pump. During the recession, bay area communities waived property taxes, cut impact and permitting fees, fast-tracked the regulatory process and offered millions of dollars in tax incentives to bring new business to the region. With the market stabilizing, officials should target that money much more strategically. Two-thirds of new single-family homes started in this market last year were in Hillsborough's southern and eastern suburbs; one-quarter were in Pasco County's newer, sprawling subdivisions. These development patterns make it more costly to deliver public services.

Officials also need to acknowledge the economic recovery will likely continue to be gradual and unpredictable. While several developments strike a positive outlook — such as the big push by Sarasota-based builder Neal Communities to venture north into Hillsborough's new-home market — the fundamentals of the region's job, housing and income pictures have not dramatically improved. The Tampa Bay area is still struggling to diversify its economic base, modernize its transportation system and build a regional identity. The urgency to make a full economic recovery cannot sacrifice smart urban planning and be allowed to create the suburban sprawl that fueled the region's growth in the past.

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Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18