Baltimore Thrive, an organization dedicated to affordable housing, job creation and equitable development, endorses The Baltimore Sun’s call for “smart growth” in Baltimore (”Target Baltimore for new home construction and transform the region,” July 20). But, instead of tax breaks, Baltimore Thrive suggests a tax shift that would reduce the property tax rate applied to privately-created building values while increasing the return of publicly-created land values.

The lower rate applied to buildings makes them cheaper to construct, improve and maintain (in terms of lifecycle costs). This is good for residents and businesses alike. Surprisingly, the higher rate applied to land values helps keep land more affordable by discouraging land speculation. Thus, without new spending or loss of revenue, this tax shift can make both buildings and land more affordable.

As a bonus, this tax shift encourages infill development of vacant urban land and buildings thereby reducing sprawl. This improves the environment and saves taxpayers money by avoiding the wasteful duplication of expensive infrastructure systems at the urban fringe.

Baltimore should pursue this approach that has been successfully implemented in several Pennsylvania cities. Detroit is actively considering this approach.

— Rick Rybeck, Washington, D.C.

This letter to the Baltimore Sun may be read here: