Land rights! – More freedom of choice with a dash of sensible taxation

An interesting article in the conversation raised the possibility of auctioning off rezonings in order to ensure that some of the windfall that rezonings can produce is secured by the public authority who exercised the power to rezone.

“Rights to additional development density can be sold in local auctions. For example, a decision can be made for only one of a menu of possible rezoning decisions to go ahead, with landowners in the different areas required to bid against the other areas to get the one they want.”

An auction of development rights?

One might even think about applying the concept of an auction to the rights to export certain mineral resources – say iron ore. Still time for Joe Hockey and the junior miners to get together and talk sense and put in place a National Export Volume Auction (NEVA) for Iron Ore.

But I digress….

An auction of development rights makes sense as it would force people to bid for the value of a rezoning but Phil touches on what would be the simplest biggest improvement of all. Reduce restrictions on land use change across the board.

Alternatively if that is too much ‘freedom’ for freedom suspicious people like Australians simply invert the current concept of “no development without permission” to “any development unless prohibited”.

That would allow select parcels of farmland, national parks, market gardens, heritage sites and buildings, parks, heavy industry, road and transport and other utility reservations to preserved for eternity (or some approximation to it) by specific prohibition on any change of use.  “Lock the gate” – to recycle a popular expression.

The remaining land in all its cow carrying farmland glory or brownfield urbanity can then be developed organically as the needs of society and development require with the usage of land changing as the owners of the land desire and the needs of society demand.

Most of the fun and interesting parts of our cities are a mix of retail, office, residential and commercial and light industry – aka – life before the town planning obsessives decided they would – for our own good of course – determine the manner in which we live and where we live.

With an appropriate across the board land tax to fund the infrastructure required to support improvements to the value of land, land that increases in value will contribute to the cost of the infrastructure and amenity that increased its value. Who knows maybe landowners may start to see land tax as an investment in their future wealth.

People who prefer to avoid tax will just move to low value land beneath the land tax threshold.

Sure some Greenies might freak out at this being an encouragement to people to use ‘personal mobility’ to access their more remote less taxed homes but they can fight that battle with fat taxes on petrol if that is their desire. Of course the rise of electric cars and motorbikes raises the question whether a fatwa on private mobility is really relevant anymore anyway.   The best solution to avoiding the problem of the human footprint on mother earth is simple – fewer human footprints – but then none of the major parties, including the Greens, seem keen to press that point in a time of high speed migration to the land down under for fear of being branded xenophobes.

If people prefer to avoid congestion on the roads and live a lifestyle of culture and cultured baristas they are always free to live in apartments and medium density close to heavy rail hubs.

Let the horses choose their courses.

To read the original version of this comment in the original context at Macrobusiness.com.au click this link. (link maybe locked – but there is a free trial available).

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