“Evidence from other cities is that apartments are about as important as ax-throwing bars in attracting millennials to move.” 

That paragraph is from my analysis today at MLK.50.  I’m proud to contribute to founder and publisher Wendi Thomas’ vision of Justice Through Journalism.   

Two days ago, I wrote about how $58 million in tax breaks from EDGE do nothing to address Memphis’ affordable housing crisis.  Today, I’m analyzing the political influence that gave birth to yet another tax break for developers:

Affordable housing advocates find no help from EDGE’s apartment subsidies  

When the Downtown Memphis Commission reduced the maximum term of its tax breaks for Midtown apartments from 15 to eight years in July 2016, developers promptly exercised their insider political muscle.

In calls and meetings with Mayor Jim Strickland and other political allies in City Hall, developers threatened to shut down proposed projects in Midtown. 

The mayor quickly responded.  Among his calls were those to developer Michael Greenberg of Makowky Ringel Greenberg, who had a proposed project at McLean and Madison, and Reid Dulberger, president/CEO of EDGE (Memphis/Shelby County Economic Development Growth Engine), the city and county’s chief economic development agency.

He urged the developer not to abandon his plans and pushed EDGE to give developers the longer tax breaks they were accustomed to and to make them citywide. 

Ten months later, on May 17, 2017, EDGE added a program allowing apartment developers to receive 15-year tax breaks that reduce their property taxes by 75%.

Within weeks, Downtown Memphis Commission, getting the message from the mayor’s office, reversed course, returning to a maximum term of 15 years for Midtown projects.

Strickland did not respond to repeated requests for comment.