Alternatives to the Land Value Tax

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Alastair Parvin:

"What are our other options?

1. Public land buy-backs

Instead of introducing a Land Value Tax another way for the public to recapture land rents is to simply buy the land ourselves. One proposition put forward by Martin Farley is the idea of land buy-backs. He has worked out that because of the way the cost of our failed land system is falling back onto the taxpayer anyway, we could actually buy every single private rented property in the UK, and as taxpayers we would actually be saving £6bn a year — and it could save renters £35bn a year too. With land values probably dipping now because of COVID, now would be a perfect moment to do that.

2. Land value capture

A second related move does involve a small change in legislation — but its one that already has cross-party support. Basically its a small change to the text of the 1961 Land Value Compensation Act, that would allow local authorities to buy agricultural and ex-industrial land at its current value — only a few thousand pounds per hectare– and then use the uplift that is created by us, the community, to pay for community infrastructure, or to keep the land affordable. It has been estimated this alone would reclaim an additional £9.3bn per year of public value.

3. Soft landings

Another idea put forward by the economist Beth Stratford is the idea of creating a National Land Trust and Building Society that slowly buys land from under people’s homes, and then leases it back. She is, as far as I know, one of the only economists looking explicitly at a ‘soft landing’ / climb-down strategy in the event of a crash, which would give home owners a way out of negative equity.

4. Fairhold

An overlapping idea that we have been beginning to look at is the idea of going back to that original piece of paper — and inventing a new form of land ownership, which we call Fairhold, where public authorities buy land, and instead of selling it to speculators, public authorities retain long term ownership of land and lease — or licence it — it directly to citizens or steward organisations, like community development companies or community land trusts; who in exchange have to pay a fair community ground rent. So essentially it’s creating an opt-in parallel land economy that can exist alongside the existing one: like a kind of lifeboat, to transition to as the old one fails.

This idea is something we’re hoping to test and design further in collaboration with Dark Matter Labs and as many other organisations as possible. But in its simplest form, it’s something councils could start using tomorrow without permission from central government, and if it was used at scale, it would effectively allow local authorities to end their housing emergency within a few years — for zero cost." (