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The Homevoter Hypothesis: How Home Values Influence Local Government Taxation, School Finance, and Land-Use Policies [Kindle Edition]

William A. Fischel
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description


Just as investors want the companies they hold equity in to do well, homeowners have a financial interest in the success of their communities. If neighborhood schools are good, if property taxes and crime rates are low, then the value of the homeowner's principal asset--his home--will rise. Thus, as William Fischel shows, homeowners become watchful citizens of local government, not merely to improve their quality of life, but also to counteract the risk to their largest asset, a risk that cannot be diversified. Meanwhile, their vigilance promotes a municipal governance that provides services more efficiently than do the state or national government.




Fischel has coined the portmanteau word "homevoter" to crystallize the connection between homeownership and political involvement. The link neatly explains several vexing puzzles, such as why displacement of local taxation by state funds reduces school quality and why local governments are more likely to be efficient providers of environmental amenities. The Homevoter Hypothesis thereby makes a strong case for decentralization of the fiscal and regulatory functions of government.



Editorial Reviews

Review

Although other commentators have bemoaned voter apathy and the lack of civic engagement, Fischel shows how democracy thrives at the local level. As the "homevoter" looks at all the factors that affect property values--good schools, effective management of traffic, fewer undesirable uses such as landfills and prisons--he or she becomes politically engaged...The Homevoter Hypothesis...[is] an important contribution to the ongoing conversation about how best to manage growth. (Anthony Flint Boston Globe 2001-12-27)

Fischel...describes "homevoters" as homeowners whose votes determine the character of local government. From their ranks comes the median voter, whose needs are most likely to be met by democratically elected officials...Fiscal efficiency in local government, Fischel argues, requires close correspondence between taxes and the services they fund...Fischel rounds out his brief for local government with examples, anecdotes, and further suggestions for reform. Though best characterized as advocacy economics, the work is well documented and thoroughly researched, encouraging the diligent reader to engage in the debate. Recommended. (R. S. Hewett Choice 2002-05-01)

The Homevoter Hypothesis is a valuable contribution to debates over how to allocate land use and environmental regulatory authority among the federal, state, regional, and local governments. Fischel bring sorely needed balance to those debates. He systematically builds a theory favoring local control over land use by bringing a large and wide-ranging literature to bear on the problems of localism versus federalism. It is a very important book. (Vicki Been, New York University School of Law)

The Homevoter Hypothesis was a pleasure to read. Fischel has a unique style for an economist. This book is full of anecdotes and personal observations, yet underlying these stories and observations is very impressive scholarship. Fischel has read and internalized everything worth reading in this area, and this scholarship comes through very clearly. This book shows a different and refreshing prospective; it is rich in detail and content, but also very coherent. (Jon Sonstelie, University of California, Santa Barbara)

Review

The Homevoter Hypothesis is a valuable contribution to debates over how to allocate land use and environmental regulatory authority among the federal, state, regional, and local governments. Fischel bring sorely needed balance to those debates. He systematically builds a theory favoring local control over land use by bringing a large and wide-ranging literature to bear on the problems of localism versus federalism. It is a very important book. (Vicki Been, New York University School of Law)

Product Details

  • File Size: 3604 KB
  • Print Length: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (March 17, 2005)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005INYLRC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #629,558 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I've Got Mine, Jack!" January 3, 2002
Format:Hardcover
There are scads of good books on state and Federal government, but few on local government. William Fischel's The Homevoter Hypothesis is an exception and is an apparent classic on local government. Fischel's book advances more than an "hypothesis." It is a "correlation" that convincingly describes from case studies and case law how real estate economics drives local government. Fischel reports that housing equity in the U.S. is eleven times as large as liquid assets among all homeowners. Home equity value is the largest asset of private wealth. But this equity value is constantly under threat from external forces ("externalities") beyond the control of property owners except by government intervention. Homes are an immovable asset whose value can't be insured against a wipeout of equity. Homeowners will consent to the impositions of municipal and school district financing, zoning, growth controls, and environmental regulations only to the extent that they protect home values, or can be "capitalized" (converted) into higher property values. Fischel advances what he calls the "Tiebout Hypothesis" (from Charles Tiebout) that "people vote with their feet" by moving or shopping for a locality to maximize their wealth. Actually, because real estate is an immobile asset, Fischel's theorem might be more accurately restated as "people put their feet to the vote" or "stake their home value to the vote."
Fischel sometimes uses elegant terms ("homevoter," "unlovely land uses"), classical phrases ("people who buy houses are more careful about it than almost any other transaction, save perhaps getting married"), and even employs a reverse golden rule of sorts ("municipalities will foist disamenities on their neighbor that they would not do unto themselves").
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good supplemental text on local government and zoning January 5, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This makes a great required second book in a local government/administration course. As a matter of fact, it should be required reading for city councilmen all over America.

Fischel does a good job of proving the "people vote with their feet" hypothesis, but more importantly, he ties property values to virtually every local government action (and inaction). Virtually everything that city government does is capitalized into property values -- sometimes with negative effects and sometimes with positive effects. Americans are extremely mobile, moving every 4 years, so we really do vote with our feet to a greater extent than most city governments care to accept.
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