Land Appraisers Need Not Be Corrupted
Existing Land Trusts Provide Us Ample Evidence
While the rents of a land trust could be started with competitive bidding, I agree with Robert Kirchner that there should not be continuous bidding for plots of land. The land rents would be appraised by professionals. Robert is concerned that the appraisers could become corrupted. There is historical evidence that this need not happen. The Arden Land Trust in Delaware was established in 1900, and has operated successfully since then. What avoids corruption and favoritism is that the land assessments are a public record. In a properly functioning system, a leaseholder may appeal his assessment to an appeal board, or ultimately to a jury of follow residents. Those interested may read my chapter on Arden in Public Goods and Private Communities.
As noted by Robert, one technique in appraising land value is to use the replacement cost of the improvements. The burden of determining this cost should not fall on the owner of the building; that is a job that can be handled by the appraisers, who use typical building costs, and subtract normal depreciation. The special improvements such as statues are irrelevant, since the task is not to get a value for the building and features but to get the rent or land value, by subtracting typical improvement values. The subjective value of special features are not included. Arden shows that the appraisals can be good enough for practical purposes. Also, in mobile home parks, the residents own the structures while leasing the land, and although there can be disputes, the system works well enough so that this system remains in practice.
As to the boundaries of a community, each plot of land would necessarily belong to a single geographic community. The membership of the land trust would be determined by the originators who first acquired the land, and by new members joining and existing members seceding, based on the contract or charter of the community.
Robert refers to my Geo-Rent article in which I describe the “Henry George Theorem” that demonstrates, mathematically, that the cost of the optimum amount of public goods equals the land rent, thus showing that there is sufficient land rent to pay for public goods. The variables are easily quantified: the number of workers, the cost of the collective goods, and the amount of land rent. The basic idea is that, simplified to one individually used good and one collective good, output equals the value of the individually used good plus the value of the collective good. A worker’s wage equals the value of the individually used good he produces. Hence total income equals total wages plus rent. Therefore, the rent (income minus wages) equals the value of the collective good (output minus the value of individually used goods).