Since the 1950s, urban renewal agencies (or “redevelopment agencies”) were authorized by legislative action and created to improve blighted conditions and form a funding source used to encourage local economic revitalization. As other government services lost their sources of funding by initiatives enacted to freeze property tax rates, such as Oregon’s Measure 5, limiting increases in property taxes for cities as well as for school district budgets, and by Measures 47 (1996) and 50 (1997) capping annual increases in property taxes to 3%, urban renewal agencies have been a target for charges of exacerbating the problem caused by an already reduced ability to raise taxes.
To carry out redevelopment plans, these agencies may acquire real property, dispose of property by lease or sale without public bidding, clear land and construct infrastructure necessary for building on project sites, and undertake certain improvements to other public facilities in the project area. While redevelopment agencies have used their powers in a wide variety of ways, in one common type of project the redevelopment agency buys and assembles parcels of land, builds or enhances the site’s infrastructure, and transfers the land to private parties on favorable terms for residential and/or commercial development. (more…)