Altoona's Future Includes a land value based policy.
The September 24, 2014 edition of the Financial Times features an article on a subject not often covered by the mainstream media: land value taxation. Interest in LVT has been highlighted in the past several years in the UK by such respected columnists as Martin Wolf.
Now the US edition of the FT has weighed in with an article entitled "Land of Opportunity" by Robin Harding, a well-respected economics writer and editor.
The article concentrates on one of the cities that implements a version of land value taxation: Altoona Pennsylvania. Altoona is the only city in the United States that has illuminated the tax on buildings and improvements,joining hundreds of cities and towns around the world.
The article observes that the great financial disaster of the past 10 years has highlighted the need for programs and philosophies that can make the economy work for all. Long supported by academic economists and theorists, LVT is taking small steps in cities like Altoona to show it can be done (most important), and also to demonstrate that it can help places and communities that are in trouble, and have been in trouble for decades.
The Center for the Study of Economics – Urban Tools' parent – was pleased to play a role in the article; in fact some of our graphics were used. We were also pleased that land value tax had a fair hearing.
The politics of policy and taxes has always been a thorny thicket. any new idea falls under intense scrutiny. Yet, from the interview of a sweat equity property owner to the noncommittal observations of Altoona elected officials it appears that the promised benefits of land value tax (lower tax bills and pressure on vacant landowners to sell) can keep Altoona moving forward by using the land value tax.
A revaluation is due for the city, to be conducted by Blair County Pennsylvania. Revaluation will possibly be a vehicle for absentee landowners to call for elimination of LVT. we would expect the city to suffer if that happens, in much the way Pittsburgh did after land value tax was rescinded in 2001. However, the future is not written, and the benefit to the average citizen or small business person – who heretofore have not had any subsidies, assistance, or programs for them – stands in stark contrast to most struggling communities in the United States and beyond.