Connecticut commentator considers land tax

In Repopulating New Orleans (D&S, Mar/Apr 2006) , Mason Gaffney set San Francisco’s rebuilding after its 1907 earthquake and fire as a model for present-day New Orleans:

How did a city with so few assets raise funds to repair its broken infrastructure and rise from its ashes? It had only the local property tax, and much of this tax base was burned to the ground. The answer is that it taxed the ground itself, raising money while also kindling a new kind of fire under landowners to get on with it or get out of the way.

In the April 30 Hartford Courant, columnist Tom Condon saw in Gaffney’s ideas a remedy for a more prosaic sort of disaster: Hartford’s declining population of young adults. He noted, “Hartford buildings are taxed about three times more than the land on which they sit,” with the result that:

Connecticut lost 132,000 people between the ages of 25 and 34, nearly 23 percent of the total, between 1990 and 2000, according to census figures. A major reason the young adults are looking at Connecticut in the rear view mirror is that they can’t afford a house here.

The response of state developers to this need has been to build suburban McMansions and lots of over-55 “active adult” housing. In other words, we’ve been serving the people preparing to leave the workforce, not those who want to enter it.

This year, Connecticut’s Generally Assembly has considered a bill that would have allowed cities with populations of 80,000 or more to tax land at a higher rate than buildings, but Condon reported that it seemed likely to fail. Which, he wrote,

is unfortunate. Cities should have the option to try the land tax. If nothing else, homeowners won’t be penalized for fixing up their properties. The idea also promotes what ought to be a principal planning goal in the state—carefully increasing density in city and town centers and along transit corridors. This would encourage affordable housing, which in turn would help the economy.

Read the rest here: http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/commentary/hc-plccondon10430.artapr30,0,4561370.column

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WHAT'S HAPPENING IN NEW ORLEANS? COMMON GROUND COLLECTIVE at UMASS BOSTON

A friend of mine who is a student at UMass passed this announcement on to me.

When: Thursday, May 11 from noon to 2:00 p.m.

Where: UMass Boston Wheatley Hall Student Lounge, Room 0148, 4th Floor

Please stop by for as little or as much time as you can!

Adjunct Dispute Resolution Professor Phil Woodbury, who has spent time working in post-Katrina New Orleans, will introduce the work of the Common Ground Collective. Also present will be a long-term Common Ground
volunteer and a lifelong resident of the 9th ward. They will speak about the storm, the failed government response, and Common Ground’s work.

Common Ground’s mission is to provide short term relief for victims of hurricane disasters in the gulf coast region, and long term support in rebuilding the communities affected in the New Orleans area. Common Ground is a community-initiated volunteer organization offering assistance, mutual aid and support. The work gives hope to communities by working with them, providing for their immediate needs and emphasizes people working together to rebuild their lives in sustainable ways.

Common Ground was founded by New Orleans residents immediately after Hurricane Katrina. Thousands of volunteers have been mobilized to provide hurricane relief and long term organizing in New Orleans and surrounding areas. In addition to providing water, food, clothing and other emergency services, Common Ground has established a free medical clinic with two satellite centers, helped gut and clean churches, houses, and schools, prevented bulldozing in areas of the 9th Ward, established an after-school program, and much more.

Please come with your curiosity and your questions. Learn more about Common Ground at www.commongroundrelief.org

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