Private Investment Community Land Trust



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The Private-Investment Community Land Trust

A Better Way to Revitalize Communities

by Dan Sullivan

(Paragraph index at left)


The essential concept

The private-investment community land trust is an alternative system for private land-holding, for generating community revenues, and for encouraging better land use. Essentially, land users lease the land, rather than purchase it, from a land trust. The trust then uses lease revenues to pay investors, to provide community services, to rebate taxes levied against occupants of trust land by larger taxing bodies, and to acquire additional land. It has many advantages over our traditional land tenure system, and particularly over urban-renewal projects, to the occupants, the investors, and the communities in which they are located.

Slum Clearance at Ruch's Hill (Now Elmore Square) 1937

Current Occupants Can Stay

People often complain that urban redevelopment projects create "gentrification," by which they mean pushing poorer people out in order to entice richer people to move in. The land trust approach attracts richer people and more dynamic businesses with little or no displacement of those already living or doing business in the community. Studies show that when a community gradually improves, it actually loses fewer residents than similar communities that stagnate or continue to decline. The real cause of displacement is the urban renewal project that is undertaken to trigger gentrification. Indeed, the original term for "urban renewal" was "slum clearance." The 1937 painting at left was of Ruch's Hill in Pittsburgh's Hill District. No economic development followed, and the land was eventually used for the Elmore Square housing projects, which have also been torn down. Ironically, Elmore Square was to house people displaced by other Urban Renewal projects.

The land trust model does not push people out. To the contrary, it invites landholders to sell their land to the trust and become trust members on the same terms that attract others to the neighborhood. They also have the option of keeping their conventional land titles and enjoying trust leaseholders as neighbors.

No Risky, Expensive Projects

The track record of conventional urban renewal projects is spotty, at best. Billions of dollars of public money have been spent on failed projects. In Pittsburgh, the only major multi-building, multi-owner projects that could be called clear financial successes over the long term are Gateway Center and Station Square.

Closed Stores: Parkway Center MallParkway Center Mall (pictured at right) was successful for about two decades, but had been built on a landfill and failed both structurally and economically. The project wasted a fortune in public money, not only on the mall itself, but on an interstate exit specially built to service the mall.

Allegheny Center Mall was an economic disaster almost immediately. The retail shops that were supposed to serve surrounding residential developments quickly closed and the spaces were eventually used as offices.

Penn Circle, which was supposed to revitalize East Liberty, saw one project disaster after another, and quite literally became a textbook example of how not to revitalize a community. It is only now beginning to succeed after half a century of failure.

Perhaps the biggest disaster, both economically and socially, was the clearance of the Lower Hill District beginning in the late 1950s that forced thousands of people into housing projects and left much of the land in limbo until the mid 1990s. The main project, the Civic Arena, was torn down owing more money than what had been owed when that hockey arena first opened. Three Rivers Stadium on the North Side also had a much larger outstanding debt when it was torn down than when it had first opened.

The land trust approach does not involve projects. It changes the economic dynamic by creating incentives that encourage ordinary people to take up land in the trust and put it to better use.

Kleins Seafood sign hanging in Heinz History MuseumNo Economic Cannibalism

Even the most successful renewal projects destroy other Pittsburgh businesses. They create new businesses that steal customers from existing businesses, often without doing anything to increase the overall market for these businesses. When the Grand Concourse opened at Station Square, it was ballyhooed by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, elected officials and newspapers as the place for seafood. As a result, nationally famous Klein's Seafood quietly went out of business. It had been such a Pittsburgh landmark that its sign now hangs in the Heinz History Museum.

Businesses already pay higher tax rates in the City of Pittsburgh than in the suburbs. Part of their taxes go to subsidizing their own competitors. When the tax-subsidized East Liberty Home Depot opened in 2000, there were eleven hardware stores within a 2.5 mile radius. By 2010, there were none. Carpet stores, paint stores, plumbing and electrical suppliers and other competitors also closed or moved out of the city. The owners of these stores were driven out of business by the same city to which they had paid the taxes that were used against them.

Worse still, after Giant Eagle Supermarkets got subsidies to build large stores with parking in prime neighborhoods, they closed smaller neighborhood stores in poorer neighborhoods. People do not buy more groceries because we subsidize new grocers. Instead, we subsidized the closing of small grocers and even of neighborhood Giant Eagles. This is economic cannibalism - subsidizing new businesses to eat up the profits of existing businesses.

The land trust does not take money from some businesses to subsidize others. All tax advantages to businesses in the trust are funded from land rents paid to the trust. Established businesses who want these advantages can also sell their land to the trust and enjoy the same incentives as other trust lessees.

No Eminent DomainPittsburgh Wool, 1996

It is almost impossible to assemble land for large-scale development projects without resorting to eminent domain. Even Gateway Center used eminent domain against more than 100 property owners. The pattern is that small property owners who do not fight the takings in court are poorly compensated, while those who conduct high-profile campaigns are often given many times what the properties are worth. Pittsburgh Wool won such a fight and was awarded $7.5 million for the factory pictured at right, that had an estimated value of only $1.5 million. The settlement was heralded as a victory for property owners everywhere, but other taxpayers had to cover a $6 million overcharge. Was this overcharge not taken from their earnings? Their property? Unwarranted eminent domain is theft no matter whether it steals from the property owner or from the public purse for the property owner.

Although the land trust has more synergy if it owns all the properties in an area, it is not so necessary as to require the use of eminent domain. Small property owners can join the trust or not, as they see fit.

No Corporate Welfare

Development projects usually involve massive subsidies to large corporate interests - from construction firms to commercial occupants. Much of this is unavoidable. Small independent business owners are usually too busy tending to their own operations to even pay attention to development-project opportunities. Large corporations, on the other hand, have agents who specialize in negotiating deals with development agencies.

The land trust approach involves no subsidies. All tax advantages come from rent revenues. People are encouraged to take individual properties and put them to good use, which means ordinary businesses and residents are on equal footing with large corporations.

No Insider Deals

Developers like to keep their projects secret from those who might buy land out from under them, from competing developers, and even from community members who might organize against the project. this secrecy compounds problems when public money is involved. Even politicians who give lip-service to openness and transparency find that the very nature of development projects prevents them putting together deals in a transparent fashion. Local community organizations, who had been promised that they would be part of the project planning process, often find project plans handed to them as a fait accompli. The most progressive developers will listen to community leaders, but will not reveal tentative plans and negotiate along the way. This is not the fault of particular developers or particular politicians, but is in the very nature of large-scale developments.

The land trust, on the other hand, is open from beginning to end. The land trust proposal, the charter, the process for selling shares, the lease agreements, the internal governance of the trust and all documents are open to the public.

Idle Land Speculation Ended

current tax systemOur current tax system punishes good behavior with high taxes and rewards idle speculation with low taxes. Wage taxes, sales taxes, income taxes, business taxes and the building portion of the property tax all fall on those who putting their land to good use and making the community more dynamic.Each land speculator minimizes his taxes an maximizes his profits by getting others to improve and operate their properties while he sits back and watches the value go up. That is, he becomes an enemy of the very revitalization he from which hopes to profit. If too many speculators do this, the community deteriorates and everyone's land loses value. That is, the idle speculator is even the enemy of other idle speculators. Still, the last one to develop gains the most. Urban renewal projects actually Land Trust Systemencourage idle speculators to hold on in hope that the redevelopment authority will buy them out for a project.

The land trust reduces this. Every leaseholder pays a fair rent on the value of his land, and a large portion of the lease revenue is used to rebate taxes on his improvements and on desirable activities. Although one can speculate on shares of land trust itself, the shareholders have no control over land use. Their only powers are to demand that the terms of the trust be upheld and to bring additional land into the trust.

All control of land-use decisions rests with the Leaseholders Association, the Occupants Association, and individual leaseholders. The trust is designed so it is in everyone's interest to make the community as dynamic as possible.

Healing communities, not replacing them.

Urban redevelopment projects are like tissue transplants. They cut out rotted parts of a community, along with the people who live in them, and replace the rotted parts with entirely new neighborhoods. One of the reasons these "property grafts" fail so often is that they do not deal with the underlying problems, or with the bad incentive structure that caused the communities to decline in the first place.

The land trust changes those incentives so the trust community can heal naturally. As with any healing, improvement is first seen at the edges and the blight shrinks away.

Retaining successful local residents and business

In traditional land tenure systems, successful members of poor communities are lured away into richer communities. Taxes on their higher wages, their purchases, their business activities and even on their superior buildings are at least as high in the poor communities as in the rich ones - even higher if the entire municipality they are leaving is poor and the entire municipality they are joining is affluent. The successful person who stays in the poor community he came from pays more for poorer services and to be surrounded by poverty, blight, and the social problems that blight creates. This is why urban renewal projects have to chase poorer people away in order to attract richer people.

Localized and Specialized Control

The trust divides power into three sets of associations. The Shareholders Association represents those who have put up the money to make the trust possible, the Leaseholders Association represents people who have taken up leases, and the Occupants Association represents the people who actually live and work on trust land. The Leaseholders and Occupants Associations are further divided by neighborhood and by residential occupancy and employee occupancy. (On-site business owners and managers are included in the employee occupancy criteria.)

Amending the trust charter or changing future leases requires that all three associations concur. Other decisions may be made by one or two associations alone.

The Shareholders Association and each member thereof has standing to demand that the trust be administered as prescribed in the charter. This is very important, as similar trusts have violated their charters by collecting as little rent as possible. Because nobody had standing to demand that the charter be administered as prescribed, these trusts failed to offer the promised rebates or to acquire new land, even when excellent opportunities presented themselves. The Shareholders Association also controls the fund for additional land purchases, and can make such purchases on behalf of the trust.

Each community's Leaseholders Association and Occupants Association have joint jurisdiction over how their portion of the rent fund in their community is allocated between capital improvements, operations and tax-rebate incentives, except that the trust-wide associations might set minimum-rebate policies in order to advertise those policies, and the Shareholders association might grant additional funds to particular neighborhoods.

Until there are enough leaseholders and occupants, representatives of community groups and Community Development Corporations can perform these functions. This puts initial control at the neighborhood level.

Customizable Incentives Promote Local Priorities

The land trust does not rely on planning and projects, but on built-in, rent-funded incentives that attract the kinds of development that the local communities want. Community groups and Community Development Corporations can set up the incentives. Once the land is leased, the lessees and occupants control the incentives and other trust aspects themselves.

Where the local trust village chooses to rebate taxes on employers and employees, the best deal goes to the leaseholder with the biggest payroll for the land he occupies. That means not only the most employees, but the best-paid employees. Rebating mercantile and sales taxes attracts the store owners who expect to have the highest sales volumes. If the community wants to attract the working poor, it can rebate a portion of wage taxes on residents up to a particular income level, such as rebating taxes on the first $20,000 of earned income tax. In Pittsburgh, it might want to rebate the most regressive tax of all, the $52 per capita tax on every employee at the job site.

If the trust wants to attract families with children, it can offer child care vouchers and education vouchers. These vouchers can be cumulative so those who attend public schools can save them for vocational schools or higher education. For every desired outcome, there can be an incentive system that promotes an outcome without resorting to hard and vast rules that mandate that outcome.

Rational Community Improvements

Nobel Economist Joseph Stiglitz has developed the theorem that every rational community improvement increases land values by more than its cost. He named this the Henry George Theorem after the progressive 1880s economist who advocated taxing the value of land. However, traditional municipalities rely on a variety of taxes, breaking the link between who pays and who benefits. As a result, some community projects are favored by those who will not pay the costs, and might be undertaken whether or not they are actually worth the cost.

Because the land trust funds everything from the land rents, and shares unspent rents as tax rebates to the residents, people pay in proportion to how much they benefit. It is in everybody's interest to advocate improvements that will create more value than the cost of providing them.

Flexible land use

West Lake Village CenterEven the best-planned communities have run into problems as conditions changed. For example, Columbia, Maryland has been heralded as a quintessential example of a well planned community. Yet as times changed, they found that they had relied too much on physical planning and hadn't addressed underlying economic dynamics. Serpentine roads that were all the rage when the towns were planned in the 1960s have become problematic as reliance on mass transit has become more important. Embedding houses in wooded lots, which was appropriate to the surrounding areas at the time, has left Columbia more vulnerable to criminals from poorer neighborhoods that have grown up around Columbia. Most of all, these planned communities have not avoided the bad economic incentives that have lead to blight generally. For example, The West Lake Village Center, one of Columbia's planned shopping districts, (shown at right) is now dependent on urban renewal projects for rehabilitation.

By using economic incentives instead of relying on hard planning alone, the trust avoids the pitfalls of planned communities. The incentives lead naturally to good urban land use, reducing the need for even conventional zoning.

Small Businesses Attracted

Small businesses employ more people on less land than big businesses. Therefore, rebates to wage taxes, or to employers' contributions to payroll taxes, are a better deal for small businesses than for big businesses. New small businesses are also more concerned about startup costs, and are happy to lease land rather than purchase land. In the same way, small home builders and struggling home buyers are drawn to the trust because it avoids land acquisition costs. It has the opposite effect of of redevelopment projects, which push out small struggling businesses to attract corporate chain stores.Rent protection with limits

Rent Increase Protections

The trust follows standard real estate assessment practices to reassesses the land rent of improved properties, and accepts bids on vacant lots. Lessees can be protected from large increases, but only up to the rental value of their buildings. For example, say that the protected rent is a limited to a fixed increase plus the general inflation rate. But as the land trust is likely to be very successful, land might go up by far more than that. In the graph at right, the yellow area is the market rent, the blue area is the protected rent, and the orange area shows the protected rent when improvements do not warrant complete protection.

A vacant lot gets no protection unless it is joined to an improved lot. If the leaseholder makes significant improvements are in the future, the rent returns to what is shown on the blue line.

An improved lot, or set of lots, is protected as long as the value of the improvements is greater than the value of the protection. Suppose, for example, that the leaseholder parks a mobile home on one of the lots. As long as the rental value of the mobile home exceeds the difference between the protected rent and the market rent, he gets the full protection. However, if rent protection exceeds the value of the mobile home, he begins to pay higher rents (orange area). To remedy this, he can build a more valuable structure, or even (zoning permitting) put a second mobile home on the lot.Because the rent would continue to climb, we recommend a that people erect high-value permanent structures that take full advantage of the rebate incentives. However, mobile homes and other temporary structures are good interim uses of the land while people learn what is likely to become the best long-term use of the land.

How Rent Funds are divided.

Conventional land rent: 100% to landlordMany commercial properties are built on leased land. Usually, the leaseholder is entirely responsible for taxes, for attracting tenants, for providing amenities, and so on, while the landlord pockets the entire rent as a profit or dividend. This works well enough for prime land, where there is no difficulty attracting tenants.

However, the land trust model is designed to create a synergistic effect by attracting better tenants to poor neighborhoods where those tenants would not commit to a conventional lease.

First of all, the land trust continues to pay all taxes on the land itself. Should the city or borough increase real estate tax rates, the trust bears the entire increase on the value of land.

Amenities 30%, Land Fund 20%, Dividends 50$Second, the trust sets aside a significant portion of the rent to rebate taxes that fall on the leaseholder or his occupants. This is not merely a rent discount, but an incentive to get the leaseholder and his occupants to more fully use the land.

Third, the commitment to continually buy more land and bring it into the trust protects those who build today from being pushed out by those who would build even more tomorrow and would bid up the rent to do so. (Additional rent protections follow.)

This can only work for shareholders if the result is not a zero-sum game. That is, the stockholders hope to come out ahead with a smaller share of a much larger pie. If it works well for occupants and leaseholders, and if they make the most of the incentives by doing more with less land, it will also work well for the shareholders.

High Growth: Rebates 60%, Land fund 20% dividends 20%In ordinary circumstances, dedicating 30% of the rent to rebating taxes should be enough to attract people to the trust. In blighted areas, larger rebates would probably be necessary to get things started.

The trust could specify a high-growth incentive system for a specified period of years, or until a specified goal is attained, and shift to a good-growth system after that. However, such a change would have to be written into the original charter. Once the charter is in place the shareholders cannot unilaterally decrease the rent share that goes to amenities and rebates.

A taxing jurisdiction might also give the trust a better deal on vacant properties held by that jurisdiction, contingent on the shareholders taking smaller dividends and increasing the fund for amenities and rebates. That way the taxing jurisdiction gets the development it desires more quickly, and also gets most or all of the rebate revenue. However, there is a point at which the trust ceases to be an investment, and the shareholders are essentially purchasing stock for charitable reasons. It is wise to set the divisions to maximize growth, but also to guarantee adequate initial investments.

Better Internal Political Systems

The concept of a democratic republic is that the people deliberate and choose their leaders. However, modern democracy, which is based on elections and majority rule, has become dominated more by power struggles and propaganda bombardments than by deliberation.

The ancient Greeks didn't have elections. Local decisions were made by whoever showed up to vote on those decisions, and Senates of Greek city-states were chosen by lottery. While this approach eliminated the power struggles of political campaigns, they had other problems. The meddlesome tended to show up most often to town councils, and the Senates were made up of people who often just average or even below average in their ability to govern.

A third form of democracy, somewhat similar to the way Greeks choose their Senators, is the jury system. We trust juries to decide who goes to prison and who goes free, and sometimes who lives and who dies. Ideally, juries are also chosen by lottery, although this has been modified to eliminate jurors who have conflicts of interest.

We propose juries, not to run trust operations directly, but to chose the most talented,most dedicated, and most ethical leaders, to oversee those leaders, and to propose and adopt changes to governing documents. Juries select representatives for routine decision-making, and are only called to deliberate on policy measures. Juries are far more resistant to special-interest campaigning, and the meddlesome have no greater chance to serve on juries than anyone else. Of course, those who are concerned or knowledgeable can testify to the juries.

Jury service would be entirely voluntary, and jurors should be paid enough that at least 50% of those invited volunteer to serve.

Small Investors Favored

In an normal corporation, board members are elected on the basis of one share, one vote. A single shareholder or a small number of shareholders who have over 50% of the shares have absolute power over the corporation. In contrast, the land trust uses a jury system to select board members. The trust invites shareholders to serve on Shareholders Association juries by lottery. While each shareholder's chances of serving on such a jury is proportionate to his number of shares, even the largest shareholder can only have one seat on a jury. This creates a balance between large and small shareholders that prevents large shareholders from dominating the trust.

Also, while institutions (particularly non-profits) are welcome to buy shares, only real persons who own shares in their own names are invited to serve on shareholder juries.

Small Leaseholders Also Favored

Each leaseholder's chances of being invited on to a jury is also proportion to the rent paid for his leasehold or leaseholds. Family owned corporations may designate a family member to be eligible for jury service, but extended and publicly traded corporations are not represented.

Occupant Juries and representatives

Matters that affect all occupants are composed of both residential and employment-based occupants. Matters that pertain to residential or employment-based occupants alone can be decided by their representatives alone.

Innovated from Successful Precedents

We developed this model from other successful land trusts, distressed municipalities that turned themselves around by taxing land values, and even from shopping malls. In each case, we looked at the shortcomings as well as the advantages and improved upon the models we examined. We also have different goals from most trusts. Many trusts wanted to create isolated enclaves of people with particular social norms, to insulate life in the trust from life in the outside world, and to benefit the residents of the trust without necessarily serving a larger social purpose.

Other Land Trusts

We started with the most successful land trust communities. Each trust succeeded in some ways and failed in others, and we have incorporated the successful attributes and addressed the causes of failure. Specifically, we added measures to minimize the extent to which the desirability of the trust would drive poor people out, including measures to continually acquire more land so rich and poor alike could live within the trust.

Chatham Village

Entrance to a Chatham Village courtyardChatham village was built between the Mount Washington and Duquesne Heights neighborhoods of Pittsburgh in 1931 by the Buhl Foundation, which was founded by department-store owner Henry Buhl. It was based on the economic principles of the famous American progressive Henry George, and the Garden Cities planning concepts of England's Ebeneezer Howard. Chatham Village was "the first planned garden-homes urban community built in America to be retained in a single ownership and managed as an investment." It's intent was to show that high-quality affordable housing could be made available to working-class citizens. Residents did not purchase individual units, but memberships in the community, which were fixed at a fairly modest (but not nominal) rate. They paid a monthly fee that included their contribution to the "master mortgage," property taxes, school taxes, maintenance, property insurance, and security. In the beginning, the Buhl Foundation owned and managed the community; in 1960, these functions were assumed by a cooperative association, Chatham Village Homes, Incorporated. It has been enormously successful from the standpoint of the residents.`

Unfortunately, low rents didn't keep Chatham affordable. Instead, it led residents to think of themselves as owners rather than renters, and to demand payment for turning their living spaces over to others. Today, it is run more like a conventional condominium complex, with each resident owning the home within which he resides and getting a windfall by selling it. Thus Chatham Village abandoned the economic principles upon which it was founded. This has made it unaffordable to the working-class residents for whom it had been intended, creating what urban planning author Kenneth Kolson calls a "professional-class ghetto" in a working-class neighborhood. In 2005, units sold for $80,000 to over $200,000, on top of monthly fees of $350 - $700. Our solution is to charge market rents and then use a portion of the rents to rebate the most regressive taxes - taxes that would be more burdensome to lower-income residents.

Chatham Village planAnother problem with Chatham Village is that it's design is insular, with houses facing into courtyards and the backs of the houses facing the rest of the neighborhood. This design brought residents within the village into very close contact with one another, while isolating them from the rest of the neighborhood, much as gated communities do today. Planning commentator Jane Jacobs argued that this required that "the residents be similar to one another in their standards, interests and backgrounds," and that they "set themselves apart from the different people in the surrounding city." She noted in 1961 that one of the internal housing courts contained "four lawyers, two doctors, two engineers, a dentist, a salesman, a banker, a railroad executive [and] a planning executive." These professional-class standards have created a beautiful environment, with restrictive rules, but but too sterile for the intended working-class inhabitants. Toys must be removed from the lawns by 5 PM, and cooking grills removed as soon as they cool.

Also, the need for well planned communities is not as great as it was in 1931. Today, so many new communities are planned that, if anything, there is a shortage of urban communities where each landholder can build to his individual tastes. We propose to lease individual lots within the trust when that is practicable, and to encourage diversity through a minimum of zoning restrictions. Only multi-building developers would have to have their plans approved by the trust.

Arden, Delaware

While it is not perfect, our favorite land trust example is Arden, Delaware.  Conceptually, it is the closest to our proposal.

In 1900, sculptor Frank Stephens and architect Will Price started this community in northern Delaware with funding provided by soap magnate Joseph Fels. All three were advocates of Henry George's proposal that land rents, rather than taxes, should pay for all public services. The Arden Single Tax Corporation paid all property taxes and funded all amenities from lease rents. Because Arden is a municipality as well as a land trust, it has the flexibility to operate under either municipal law or landlord-tenant law as the situation warrants.

While Chatham Village was thoroughly planned, with all the housing built by the trust, Arden planned only the roads and infrastructure, set aside common lands, and provided some community amenities. Arden homes are famous for their individuality, and Arden itself is famous for its lack of regulations and its relaxed, "disheveled" style. While Chatham Village is known to be closed and inward-looking, Arden's reputation is one of eagerly interacting with outsiders. Non-residents get to join various gilds and use facilities on the same terms as residents. Arden puts no restrictions on who may join, and has few restrictions on yard maintenance, etc. The Arden School was the first integrated school in Delaware, and it started off housing relatively poor people and gradually became more affluent without pushing earlier residents out. Its motto is "You are Welcome Hither."

There is also a great tradition of community spirit in Arden, and a high concentration of artists. This tone was set by Stephens and Price, who promulgated a high regard for art and culture, particularly traditional English culture. A modern land trust might promote art and culture in a more diverse way, but the we agree that an appreciation of art and culture makes communities more dynamic.

Arden's corporate charter requires that it collect the full market rent on land. However, a Delaware court has ruled that, because there are no specified recipients of the rent, nobody has legal standing to demand full collection. As in Chatham Village, the uncollected rent is capitalized into the price. For several decades, a lease in Arden has been worth more than a clear deed in the communities surrounding Arden. While poorer residents have been able to stay, one now has to be fairly affluent to move there. Arden also adopted zoning laws to prevent higher-density buildings. As a result, it attracted richer people rather than more people.

Our trust gives shareholders legal standing to demand that the full rent be collected, ensuring that more taxes can be rebated for the working poor, and that more land can be acquired to enable people to move in without pushing other people out. We would also hope for more open zoning, to allow for small businesses and for higher density, which would allow more people to come in without pushing people out.

Endorsements from economists

The trust incentive system has been proven, both by taxing jurisdictions that taxed land values instead of buildings, wages, business activities, etc., and by actual trusts, a number of which were formed at the turn of the last century. The essential concept dates all the way back to John Locke, who noted that all taxes come out of land rent anyhow, and that other taxes are so destructive that it is better, even for the landowners, to pay the taxes directly than to try to make their tenants pay:

John Locke portraitIt is in vain, in a country whose great fund is land, to hope to lay the publick charge of the government on any thing else; there at last it will terminate. The merchant (do what you can) will not bear it, the labourer cannot, and therefore the landholder must; and whether he were best to do it, by laying it directly where it will at last settle, or by letting it come to him by the sinking of his rents, which when they are once fallen, every one knows are not easily raised again, let him consider.

- John Locke "Some Considerations of the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest, and Raising the Value of Money."

Other economists and economic philosophers have also endorsed raising public revenue from land values throughout history, from classical liberals like the French Physiocrats, Adam Smith, William Penn, Ben Franklin, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine, to modern economists including Nobel Laureates James Buchanan, Milton Friedman, Franco Modigliani, Paul A. Samuelson, Herbert A. Simon, Robert M. Solow, Joseph Stiglitz, James Tobin and William Vickrey.

Jurisdictions using land value tax


To be completed:

Saving Communities
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