Sunday, February 15, 2009

Urban News Vol. 38

Today I want to talk about Georgist Tax Structure as well as a worthwhile gallery show at the Community Design Center, diagrammatic case studies of sustainable urbanism.

City Newspaper has posted the provocative tagline 'The city actually penalizes you for investing here.' This is true in a sense, but it is in no way unique to Rochester. Single-rate property tax exists everywhere in this country with the exception of 20 Pennsylvania cities. The unfortunate side effect of the current taxation policies is the disincentive to A) Develop vacant city parcels (or surface parking lots) or B) Make improvements to existing city property. This is the lament of Paul Kramer, owner and restorer of the brilliant Flatiron Building at Atlantic and University Avenues.

The idea behind the alternative, Henry George's Land-Value Taxation, is that the tax burden on owners of undeveloped downtown real estate would provide incentive to either develop a revenue generating use for the property, or sell to those who would be willing to better utilize it. True land-value taxation implies that only the land is taxed, regardless of improvements. The Pennsylvania model is a split-rate partial Georgist model in that land in the most valuable areas of the city is taxed at a higher rate than the improvements (building). Taxation done in this manner has the added benefit of discouraging sprawl as studies have shown that higher land value taxation leads to increased construction in that jurisdiction.

According to the following story, Rochester City Council has invited advocates of Georgist Tax, which I first read about in James Howard Kunstler's Home from Nowhere, to present the virtues in April. I'm not sure what it would take to adopt such a scheme in New York. In Maryland in 1898, a challenge by the town of Hyattsville was deemed unconstitutional. Eventually an amendment was added to the state constitution in 1916, but I am unable to tell whether any Maryland municipalities are taking advantage of this legality.

by Tim Louis Macaluso, City Newspaper

On a side note, I volunteered at the Design Center on the 6th during the grand opening of their gallery show entitled Healthy and Happy Cities: Urban Design with Nature. Case studies of sustainable urbanist designs, some completed, some in progress, and some simply concepts at this point are showcased. All are pulled from the most recent speaker in our lecture series' book. The exhibit continues through June 12th, 9AM-5PM, Monday-Friday or by appointment.

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