Poll: Cap property tax in Tennessee

Published 10:46 am Monday, January 15, 2024

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A new poll shows Tennessee residents believe the state should be involved in capping how high property taxes can rise.

The Beacon Center poll also showed missed results related to opinions on zoning regulations and affordable housing.

The poll asked more than 1,300 Tennesseans if the state should have a cap on property tax increases and just 11% said local authorities should retain that power while 35% said a statewide cap should exist and 39% said there should be a combination of state regulations and local decision-making.

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“It is clear that people are unhappy with the current property tax system in Tennessee, with just 11% of registered voters supporting the status quo of leaving the decision to increase property taxes solely to the local mayor and city council/county commission,” said Beacon Center Vice President of Communication and Outreach Mark Cunningham. “A large majority of Tennesseans (67%) also support a state property tax cap so long as property tax increases have to be approved by voters via referendum.”

The poll also showed 27% believe that local governments are spending property taxes wisely, 31% believe they are not and 42% said they are unsure or neither.

Overall, those polled said that they believe zoning regulations positively impact communities by managing growth and land use effectively while 21% believe they restrict development and personal property use and 20% say they don’t have a significant impact.

Of those polled, 47% agreed that zoning regulations positively control growth while 36% believe that they limit personal use of private property.

A Beacon Center report in mid-2023 following a 2022 listening tour said housing affordability is the most pressing issue in Tennessee and that local and state policies have contributed to an environment where housing prices have outpaced the median income.

The report showed multi-family housing like apartments are banned on 94% of Middle Tennessee land and duplexes are banned on 59% of land.

The poll showed 77% of Tennesseans believe property owners should be able to build an accessory dwelling while 16% were unsure and 8% disagreed.

Accessible dwelling units, such as mother-in-law suites, are allowed on 57.8% of Middle Tennessee land while ADUs can be rented to non-family members on just 34% of land.

“While some people have strong opinions on zoning, it’s clear from the survey that many Tennesseans either aren’t exactly sure what zoning encompasses or don’t know how they feel about it,” Cunningham said. “While our poll shows a plurality of Tennesseans support zoning regulations (40%) as a way to manage growth and only 21% of Tennesseans view zoning regulations in a negative light by restricting development and personal property use, many people (38%) either are not sure how they feel about zoning or don’t think zoning laws have a significant impact either way.”

Zoning regulations impact housing affordability and the poll showed a wide variety of opinions on the best way to make housing affordable.

“Tennesseans are all over the map when it comes to the best approach to affordable housing from the private sector increasing the housing supply without government intervention (16%) to the government directly constructing affordable housing units (7%),” Cunningham said. “While a large portion of Tennesseans are unsure of the best approach to affordable housing, the most popular answers are a combination of public and private sector collaboration.”