By Wyn Achenbaum, April 4, 2021
Responding to New York Times article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/03/opinion/sunday/property-taxes-housing-assessment-inequality.html
The conventional property tax is a mash-up of two very different taxes, a tax on the value of the location and a tax on the value of the improvements, the structures. Locational value is created by the activity and vitality of the community. The improvements are the creation of the owner, and belong rightly to her. Assessing land value well is not all that difficult or expensive. Assessing buildings well is expensive, invasive and impractical. And unnecessary and unjust. “The rich as a rule do not live next to the poor. Rather, they cluster in neighborhoods with much higher lot values. The poor seek shelter first, and go where it is affordable. The rich put a high premium on location, neighborhood, views, and grounds, resulting in higher land fractions in their real estate. Mansions are visible evidences of wealth, impressing viewers powerfully; land values are invisible. The perceptual bias is to underrate the invisible, if you are not regularly in the real estate market. In the numbers, however, land and buildings are equally visible, and their message is clear. It is land value more than house value that divides the rich from the poor. Ergo, a tax shift from buildings to land is a shift from the poor to the rich, even though the houses of the rich are exempted. It makes the property tax more progressive.” (source: https://www.masongaffney.org/publications/G29-TaxableCapacityofLand.pdf, p 8) Land value is created by the community, and ought to be used by it.