Other People’s Property, Giving Thanks, The Broke and the Beautiful
Other People’s Property
Regarding Kellie C. Murphy’s recent article about Land Value Taxation:
Maybe the assessors can’t do an absolutely perfect job of distinguishing land value
from building value, but so what? Right now, land and buildings are taxed at the same
rate, so people who improve their properties get hit with higher taxes, while slumlord
and speculators owning vacant lots get off easy.
If land were taxed at, say, four times the rate on buildings, that would be a great
improvement (and cutting the tax on improvements would lead to great improvements, if
you’ll pardon the pun). If assessments weren’t perfect, and someone paid land-rate taxes
on a small part of the value of his building, or someone got off paying only the
building rate on part of the value of his land, we’d still be much closer to a good tax
system than we are now.
NICHOLAS D. ROSEN
Land values are marked by continuity in space; building values are not. That’s why you
can put land values on a map—most neighboring parcels are comparable to each other in
value. That’s how NYC taxed residential land values while exempting new buildings (below
a ceiling value) from 1921 to ’32, and boomed while Philly and other Eastern cities
What’s being proposed has been needed for decades. For more than 30 years I worked in
the housing finance sector and watched as rising land prices made housing less and less
affordable for lower- and middle-income families. The only way to stabilize land prices
at an affordable level is by making it unprofitable to hold land off the market (or to
ignore the land you do own because the taxes are so low you need do nothing with it).
Philadelphia (and all communities) ought to be moving toward a land only property tax
base, so that some time in the near future all property improvements are exempt from
taxation and the full location rental values are collected to pay for public goods and
I’ve recently completed development of a global education program on land value
taxation, or land value “capture,” as it’s coming to be known worldwide. From our
analysis of the use of this policy both in the U.S. and other developed countries, there
is no obstacle to separating land value from building/improvements value. Mr. Mescolotto
should rest assured that there are no practical barriers for implementation of this
policy in Philadelphia and the benefits would no doubt be significant.
In response to our cover story about philanthropic organizations and the
As the director of a nonprofit organization here in Philadelphia, I was extremely
pleased to read your cover story about the importance of giving to nonprofits during
tough economic times. Our country’s financial crisis has made it more difficult for
individuals to donate their resources, while also creating a higher demand for the
services many nonprofits and foundations provide.
What makes all of these groups so special is their ability to effectively organize
community members to foster change. I thank you for acknowledging and validating their
work, and for bringing attention to their need for support.
As we enter the holiday season, it’s important to remember that we as individuals have
the power to make real change happen in our city through giving. And I’m not just
talking about money. It’s about donating your time and other resources to help those in
need. There are so many people right here in Philadelphia who need our help. The city’s
poverty rate is among the worst in the nation and the highest in the Northeast. When the
economy worsens, it’s people already living on the margins who are the hardest hit. Now,
more than ever, is the time to make a difference and make real change happen in
Bread & Roses Community Fund
The Broke and the Beautiful
Regarding Liz Spikol’s recent column about financial insecurity:
Hilarious and brilliant. I laughed till I cried. Like Liz, I know nada of 401(k)s,
stock ownership, etc. This financial meltdown hasn’t affected me that much, except for
my lovely credit cards. No car, no fancy clothes. But then again, no health insurance,
either. The place that used to give it to me doesn’t exist anymore.
I do own a tiny little house and whatever great Russian said, “Property is theft” sure
knew his stuff. Smarter folks than I have written we can ride this baby out if we stay
local and provide our services to each other. Maybe that’s true. Here’s hopin.’
As a Philly resident who relies on expensive meds—and has bad credit—I think I can
relate. With memories of a prosperous life (I used to have a 401(k) and a smokin’
debt-to-income ratio) before recessions and PSZ, I understood that any income I earn in
this new, crazy world (I work online) could fuel a Roth IRA.
The difficulty, here and now, is surviving the moment. Too often, crapola occurs, such
as running into the “unprotected” zone in prescription coverage, making it impossible to
properly fuel “golden years” savings.
In one paragraph, Spikol mentions activities of daily living being, at the least,
challenging. I’m curious as to what energy/focus-sapping things go through her mind. In
my case, it’s a combination of fear, anger and disgust—which I think are ingredients of