Lydia DePillis is doing yoeman’s work on the battles between DC-based universities and their neighbors, and Matt Yglesias muses about government intervention in the marketplace.Though I myself am definitely not a fan of NIMBYism, and although it doesn’t seem central to this specific set of objections, I’m surprised neither of them mentions the most pressing issue regarding university expansion – the depletion of the property tax base of the city. Land in DC, as Yglesias and DePillis often point out, is scarce, especially land in denser and Metro-accesible parts of the city. This is why Mary Cheh is proposing to remove their tax-exempt status, and though this particular article opposes that position its easy to see why Cheh, who represents the ward that contains American University, UDC, Howard Law, and borders Georgetown, would feel this way. University expansion turns land that has permanent employed residents or businesses into land that has transient unemployed residents living in tax-exempt property, and the last thing DC needs is to reverse the population growth it has seen over the last decade and turn some of its most valuable land into campus. Especially when struggling to fill a large budget gap university expansion seems almost certain to result in higher taxes on the remaining residents or a lower level of services.

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