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Property Taxation and the Frequency of Urban Renewal

History has imposed a curious double standard on deliberations of tax alternatives. Most taxes are adopted because they raise revenue. Land taxes are rejected because they are no panacea. If they simply raise revenue without doing much damage they are a great improvement over what we have now. If they offer additional benefits, so much the better, but let us not be so enamored of the results of taxing buildings that we will consider no alternative except a panacea. The land tax is a good tax, on a non-erosive base. It lets us escape from the folly of taxing improvements. That is a sufficient character reference.
The upward assessment of undeveloped land in suburban fringes, and resulting higher taxes, is a prime force prompting the land’s development! So the property tax is not only potent, it is potent to different effects, depending on whether buildings or site-potentials constitute the base.
Proceedings, NTA, 57th Annual Conference, Pittsburgh, 1965, pp. 272-85. 1967-71 I spoke on this text, and on containment policy, to civic groups in about 10 cities, sponsored by The Brookings Institution.

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