Housing Crisis? What Housing Crisis?

by Mark Wadsworth

It would be foolish to describe the current situation in the UK housing market as a “crisis,” as this suggests some unforeseen events which suddenly come to a head and which the government has to deal with urgently. Far from it, the state of the housing market is the inevitable result of quite deliberate changes in UK government policy over the last thirty years or so, which we are feeling the full impact of now. Continue reading

Self-Supporting Sanctuary Cities

by Lindy Davies

Until recently, the debate over “sanctuary cities” was mainly a talking point among the right. Donald Trump, however, seems to be serious about stopping the flow of alien gun-running junkie rapists. One of his biggest campaign promises was to deny federal funding to jurisdictions that persist in adopting “sanctuary” policies toward undocumented immigrants. Continue reading

Georgist Tax Policy in Western Canada, 1890-1920

by Mason Gaffney

From about 1890-1930 many cities in the four Provinces of Western Canada chose to attract people and capital by a simple tax device:  raising the property tax rate on land to support public services while lowering tax rates on capital, labor, sales, and production and trade generally. Vancouver quintupled its population from 1890-1900, far outpacing US cities, even on the booming Pacific Coast. Continue reading

Did You Know?

15cpwby Polly Cleveland

One of New York City’s priciest and poshest addresses is 15 Central Park West, home of elegant twin limestone towers, and many celebrities. The 36-story, 202-unit building was was completed in 2008, at a cost of $950 million. Before that, this lot, on the Central Park side, had been vacant for many decades. It had been owned by a Greek shipping family, but was finally pried loose for $401 million in 2004.

On the Broadway side of the lot stood the old Mayflower Hotel. Its last resident, a 73-year old rent-controlled tenant, was paid $17 million to give up his lease.

Condos in this building have been owned by the likes of Robert DeNiro, Alex Rodriguez and various cash-loaded Russian oligarchs. Sales to date stand at $2.5 billion. Units in this building are notably good investments; apartments purchased for $5-7 million are now flipping for $30 million and up.

niceviewNew York City’s property tax system offers a sweet deal to condominium owners. Units are assessed as though they were rental apartments; their often gigantic asset value does not enter into the property tax picture at all. This has created a gigantic speculative market in luxury condos, which has spurred the recent trend toward “supertall” luxury buildings.

supertall

Action Stations

by Karl Fitzgerald

The Georgist movement is at an interesting point in time. A new generation of reformers have found the story via the many online learning tools available. The potential to develop new avenues of learning awaits. Geo-Spatial analysis is just one of the new windows of opportunity, where Google Earth-type public policy surveying of land use is thriving. Continue reading

A Story that Needs Telling

by Jonathan Hall

Like many Georgists, I know that the ‘lift off” is going to include a dramatic work that puts a face to the wrong that is resource privilege. But few have a skill set that includes both insight into economic life and compelling storytelling. Yet this is still a “must do” avenue for the movement. I saw something today that was dramatic and could help.

It was from a piece of fiction, but very real, almost even a cliché. There was a giant movie project that involved hundreds of lives, and it could not go forward because the son of the financier was jealous of the lead’s girlfriend.

Corny? Sure — but this is what rent does: it gives great power to people who haven’t earned it, and that power gets abused for the pettiest of reasons. Just about every class-conscious piece of fiction exposes the decadence of the privileged class as it rains collateral damage on the serfs that make it all work.

We have an almost comic example of this, writ large, running around the country pretending to be worthy of the White House. A man whose father left him $200 million in real estate — had he not, we’d never have heard of him. And his support seems to come from nothing other than a) he hates the “bad” people; b) he’s very, very rich. It’s a rent cult!

Here in Kern County, California, I’ve seen some of the nation’s most profound poverty, and the culture of “faith” dependency. I was stuck looking at the wrong end of the story. How hard people try to make their business work, but they just cannot stay ahead of the rent payments! Landed privilege forces people to bust, even when there is 50% plus commercial vacancy.

We need a Great American Story that ties these two ends together. This country is aching for a tale of decadence and revolution: something more organic, more human, than vampires of Jupiter Ascending, or the faceless aristocracy of Hunger Games.