Hyattsville’s 122-year-old idea is back in the news.
Back in 1892, Hyattsville garnered worldwide attention for a short-lived experiment in taxing only land, and not buildings.
The land tax, or “single tax,” was based on an economic theory that taxing buildings discourages developers from making improvements that fell out of favor by the early part of the 20th century. But now it may be making a comeback.
In Quartz, finance professor Noah Smith argues that a land tax would help San Francisco, which is currently embroiled in a dispute over rising home prices:
The policy would bring rents down, and thus encourage tech companies and their brilliant employees to keep moving into the city, to keep interacting and mixing and generating the ideas that make the tech world go. At the same time, it would raise the money the city needs to build better trains, run more bus lines, and build more public housing that will benefit the poor and middle class of San Francisco. And it would do it all in a way that seems much more fair than other kinds of taxation.
The land tax has also been praised by Slate economics blogger Matthew Yglesias, although he argues that zoning restrictions are more to blame for the city’s problems.