Land Value Tax

The land value tax, advocated most famously by Henry George in his 1879 book Progress and Poverty has been around as a proposal since long before zoning took hold. The proposal is simple: an ad valorem tax on the unimproved value of land. Unlike a property tax on both land and improved values, this does not disincentivize construction. Because of this, moving municipal funding from property taxes to land value taxes has been theorized as a pro-development reform.

Owners of expensive land would be incentivized to either develop or sell, so as to avoid paying hefty taxes on an unused lot without seeing commensurate return. This would disincentivize low-value uses like surface parking lots in central business districts, where high-return developments would pay similar taxes, relative to a more typical property tax regime, in which high-dollar developments pay much more in taxes than surface parking lots.

While encouraging development on individual parcels that are already entitled for more development, the land value tax has little effect on addressing the fundamental problem posed by zoning cartels: underentitlement.