A growing body of literature over the past decades has sought to assess the extent to which new suburban development pays or does not pay its own way in municipal services and infrastructure. The issue is of immediate policy concern because tax transfers from existing to new development are thought by some to represent a significant subsidy to urban sprawl. Some studies on the fiscal impact of sprawl generally focus on municipalities and school districts. Little has mentioned the fiscal impact of sprawl on taxpayers or households in terms of the change in property tax rate as politically perceived tax burden, or property tax bills as actual household tax burden. Therefore, it is still unclear whether suburban households are fiscally better or worse off due to sprawl.  Most literature has defined sprawl as unlimited low-density development (Downs, 1998). The four land use categories in SEMCOG land use coverages are medium to high rise multi-family, low-rise multi-family, single family and duplexes as well as mobile home park. Therefore, based on data availability, the proposed study will look at whether the increase in single family and duplex land use from 1985 to 1995 is associated with the increase in property tax rate or property tax bills during the ten years in Southeast Michigan. 

First, consider growing suburban Minor Civil Divisions (MCDs) where land value increases or at least remains the same. If its tax rate increases over time, there is no question that actual household tax burden increases.  However, when its tax rate decreases over time, it is unclear how actual household tax burden changes depending on the extent to which land value increases.  Although some literature has mentioned that the decay of downtown is associated with sprawl of a metropolitan area (Downs, 1998), it is hard to associate the increase in single family land use to any fiscal impact in decaying MCDs.  Therefore, the study concentrates on growing southeast Michigan MCDs, whose land value has increased over time. They will be the units of analysis for  multiple variable regression models to study how much the increase in single family land use accounts for the change in property tax rate. In order to study households’ true tax burdens in the MCDs with an increase land value but a decreased tax rate, the study will sample households within these MCDs that exist from 1985 to 1995 to see how their actual tax bills change. 

          Table of Tax Indicators
      Growing Area
      Decaying Area
Land Value
Tax Rate Increase/Constant...................Decrease Increase/Constant...........................Decrease
Tax Bills Increase/Constant.......................Unsure Unsure..............................................Decrease