During the short legislative session, we are preparing for the next full session in 2025 to advance our package of bills. Here’s a recap of our recent and current efforts:
Governor’s Housing Production Advisory Council (HPAC): The Council’s recommendations for legislative action included adoption of a land value tax. We submitted testimony in November that urged passage of our referral for a constitutional amendment authorizing a local option LVT, whereby counties or cities may by popular vote switch to a split-rate LVT system and be granted an exemption from Measures 5 & 50.  

We also addressed proper implementation: “Georgist organizations around North America, most especially in Pennsylvania, have firmly expressed the need for accurate and up-to-date property assessments, which is the only way that the built-in incentives of LVT can become effective. In fact, Common Ground-OR/WA has prepared language for a Best Practices Assessment bill, refining details with suggestions from Oregon Department of Revenue staff.” The full version of our comments is available on our website.

Following an extensive article in The Oregonian about the HPAC’s consideration of tax increases to support housing production and affordability, the paper published our letter to the editor on January 21, 2024. It urged use of LVT as incentive taxation instead of new taxes and as a means to free urban land held in speculation for housing.

Mid-Valley Council of Governments: The COG’s Legislative Committee has invited us to present our legislative efforts for their consideration of support for a constitutional amendment authorizing a land value tax. While Salem defeated a payroll tax to support local services in November, they are interested in LVT’s potential to incent local economic development. We anticipate collaborating with the COG to advance our LVT study bill in the 2025 session and related bills.

SB 1537: Senate Bill 1537 is Governor Kotek’s housing production bill this session. SB 1537 allows cities to override land use laws to expand their urban growth boundaries (UGBs) by at least 75 or 150 net residential acres, depending on population size. In response, we submitted comments to Sen. Frederick, urging the committee to consider the LVT solution to accessing more land for affordable housing: “The key is to free up the existing supply of vacant and underutilized land to make it available for development. This can be accomplished by reforming Oregon’s convoluted property tax system, replacing it with a split-rate land value tax to loosen the land supply market….” We urged the committee to remove the provision allowing for UGB expansion and consider the objectives of our LVT study bill passed by the Senate in ’19, SB 702.

We’re motivated going into the next full legislative session. We’re confident that political momentum is building to finally move our legislative priorities toward referral and passage of a constitutional amendment that enables use of a local option land value capture system of property taxation.

LVT is gaining traction across the U.S.

Economists are buzzing with interest in LVT, and Detroit’s mayor, Mike Duggan, is all in. Spearheading the effort, he hopes this reform will incentivize development on blighted property, as taxes increase on vacant land and decrease for those who develop their land. (August 2023)

After years of decline and abandonment the city of Detroit has finally seen how the property tax system can be shaped to reverse this trend. A Lincoln Institute’s 2022 study describes the property assessor’s predicament and its logical solution – a land value tax.

We have been in touch with Nick Allen who was an economic development official with the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and is now consulting with city officials on the new tax system. It is a combined universal exemption / land value tax (UE/LVT). The exempt taxable rate is $26 per $1,000 assessed total value on every property, resulting in total tax relief of $145 million – the universal exemption. This method appears to comply with the constitutional mandate of uniform taxation (taxing land and improvements at the same rate). The lost revenue is then replaced, dollar for dollar, with a separate tax exclusively on assessed land values.

Leading economists – including 4 Nobel Laureates – agree Detroit’s proposed land tax reform would give a “substantial boost” to the city’s economic growth. The Duggan administration still hopes to implement the land-value tax in 2025.

Now, it looks like Colorado has jumped onto the LVT bandwagon. Gov. Jared Polis is pushing the Commission on Property Tax to study potential adoption of LVT: “Taxing land — not the buildings on top of it — has the benefit of reducing land speculation and promoting environmentally sound development; in contrast, taxing buildings discourages investing in your home.” (January 2024)