The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

14 August 2006

Curbing sprawl

I am not one of those New Urbanists who think that anything beyond the core of the central city is of no interest; on the other hand, I am also not keen on endless developments on the fringes while the core is neglected. (Only recently — let's say, within the last fifteen years — has Oklahoma City come to realize the value of its core, and the city takes one step back, or at least to the side, for every couple of steps forward. We're still learning.)

A number of solutions have been proposed, some workable, some which might work but which won't likely ever happen, but nothing strikes me as quite so ingenious as Arkansas writer Kevin Carson's prescription:

[P]erhaps the most effective measure would be shifting the property tax off of buildings and improvements onto site value alone. The effect of such a policy, wherever it has been tried, has been to increase the cost of holding land vacant in older parts of town and to encourage in-fill development. When such a tax shift has been implemented, it is immediately followed by mass sales of vacant lots that have been kept out of use for years for speculative purposes, and by an enormous construction boom. Shifting taxes onto land value also encourages efficient and intensive use of land, rather than the giant parking lots and unusable front yards associated with current sprawl development. Such a policy would take taxes off of human labor and ingenuity, and put them instead onto the unearned wealth that pours into the pockets of landlords.

The Oklahoma County Assessor is already calculating land values for taxable properties, so it's not like this would be an enormous regulatory burden; getting it past the usual suspects, of course, is another matter entirely.

And there is one downside, at least from my point of view: while I have the smallest house on the block, I have the largest lot, so I can expect the biggest tax bite should Carson's idea be implemented. Nobody said this was going to be easy.

(Spotted in Michael Bates' linkblog.)

Posted at 7:51 AM to Dyssynergy


If Carson gets the credit for it, there's some guy in Pennsylvania or somewhere who's going to be peeved.

Up in Fairbanks a guy named Dae Miles used to run for office every freaking year just so he could push this idea. To him it was the solution to every problem including halitosis and the Arab-Israeli conflict. For all I know he still makes it a centerpiece of his perennial political efforts and still answers every forum question by talking about this tax idea and how it's worked so wonderfully in Pennsylvania.

None of the names in the Carson piece sound familiar from Miles' jibber-jabber, but I never paid really close attention to Miles...

Posted by: McGehee at 8:03 AM on 14 August 2006

but I never paid really close attention to Miles...

That is, I never really paid close attention to what he was saying once he started off on his riff.

Posted by: McGehee at 8:05 AM on 14 August 2006