What Would Henry George Say?
Still Relevant, Still Poignant
By Mihir Zaveri
July 12, 2023
By Dr. Marty Rowland
On July 12, 2023, the New York Times published an article by Mihir Zaveri titled Almost $80 Billion Needed for Repairs to New York City’s Public Housing. In the article, he says $78 billion is needed to upgrade the homes of 330,000 people over the next 20 years, or $3.9 billion per year. Big numbers.
Over the years, New York has provided annual subsidies of $1.8 billion to luxury apartment developers through the NYS 421a tax abatement program, without recouping the funds. Additionally, the city is faced with significant vacant property challenges, including 10,000 vacant residential properties, 200 vacant hotels, and 40% unoccupied office buildings and 17% vacant. Considering these circumstances, it is an opportune time to consider Henry George’s remedies:
a) Cease the luxury tax abatement program permanently.
b) Allocate the 10,000 vacant lots to qualified non-profit community land trust (CLT) operators, enabling the establishment of affordable homes without the burden of mortgage on land value.
c) Convert the 17% vacant office buildings, along with those with available space, into public housing or CLTs during the renovation/upgrading process.
d) Transform the 200 hotels into CLTs or public housing.
e) Implement city-wide land value tax increases while reducing taxes on buildings to bridge the funding gap for public housing needs.
Considering the reluctance of the private sector to address these issues, it is crucial not to grant any public land or buildings to special interests. Public properties should only be sold after evaluating their potential for conversion to CLTs or public housing.
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