UN-Habitat Launches Global Land Tool Network

by Alanna Hartzok

The Land Value Tax/Capture (LVT/C) Project, under the aegis of the United Nations Habitat Global Land Tool Network, is underway! Twelve years of persistent work of the United Nations NGO Representatives for the International Union for Land Value Taxation and Free Trade have proved to be well worthwhile. The door is now open for acceptance and implementation of land value tax worldwide via our now formal working relationship with UN Habitat.

The eight-page contract of Global Land Tool Network has this beautiful paragraph at the end of the first section:

The natural world is rightfully the common property of all persons, and therefore the LVT is not really a tax, but simply the collection of rent (a user fee) on behalf of the community. For eight thousand years worldwide, LVT has been the primary basis for producing public revenue and is easy for people to understand. LVT is the appropriate instrument for the urgent fight against global inequity and poverty.

UN Habitat is responsible for Goal 7 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to, by 2020, 1) Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources; 2) Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water: 3) Achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.

Also, the Millennium Development Goal on empowerment of women, which has been expanded to include women’s property rights, requires the gendering of tools.

A GLTN Advisory Group of thirty-four Georgist experts have committed to work on the LVT/C project. The team of UN NGO Representatives for the International Union will have much to contribute as well. Georgist organizations and individuals worldwide are welcome to add to the success of this project.

Our reform proposal is explictly endorsed in a number of seminal UN-Habitat documents. The “Access to Land” section of the HABITAT II Action Agenda recommends land-based taxes and “the adoption of innovative instruments that capture gains in land value and recover public investments.” The section ends with “Sound LVT/C policies create incentives for substantial improvement in the housing stock, provides the basis for self-financing cities, enables the benefits of the market system, and secures a fair distribution of wealth.”

We plan to establish a capacity-building program, seeking to enable implementation of the UN-HABITAT 1996 Action Agenda recommendations for land value capture and land based tax policy. The training material will be available via the Internet, and will be geared toward public officials, NGO and grassroots leaders, and others who are committed to ensuring access to land for affordable shelter for all.

The training will focus in particular on the capture of land value for public revenue and the land tools that are crucial to the successful implementation of this policy, such as land assessments, cadastral systems, and land registration. We will document and disseminate existing best practices and lessons learned on LVT/C, and develop a curriculum for a short Internet based course on implementing LVT/C. The online home of this effort will be the GLTN website at www.gltn.net.

The project, which will have to deal with advising emerging market economies having little or no experience with sophisticated cadastral systems, must address such questions as:

1. Where has LVT been implemented so far and what are the results?

2. How does a council with limited resources assess land values?

3. How would LVT be implemented in a small community with limited resources and what are the barriers?

4. How is it best managed to tax existing landowners who have not been taxed in the past?

5. Given that land tax can be imposed on the poor, how is that best managed without causing market evictions?

6. What is the way forward if there is no valuation process in place in the country?

The UN Habitat GLTN Land Value Taxation/Capture Project will be directed and coordinated by Alanna Hartzok. A grant of $20,000 has been provided for this work, which will be administered by Earth Rights Institute, a US-based non-profit organization co-directed by Hartzok and Anne Goeke, both UN NGO Representatives for the International Union for Land Value Taxation and Free Trade. Earth Rights Institute is also a member organization of the IU. For further information or if you would like to be involved with this project please contact Alanna Hartzok at earthrts@pa.net.

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