Many years ago, I wrote a memo called “Vacant Land is Undertaxed.” The title says it all, but it’s still true today.
A new Civic Federation report shows vacant land in Chicago assessed at just 4.81% of market value– it’s supposed to be assessed at 22%. On this basis, vacant land in Chicago is worth $5.3 billion, and to assess (and tax) it properly would bring in over $50 million/year. If the County Board were to revise its classification ordinance to assess vacant land at 40% of value (to go any higher would have other repercussions), another $40 million or more would be recovered.
In the suburbs, the underassessment is less severe, but vacant land there is estimated to be worth over $4.6 billion, so some additional revenue could be realized.
And or course, no matter how high the taxes on vacant land are raised, nobody’s going to move it away or decide not to use it because of the tax on it.
A letter to this effect was sent to the Tribune this afternoon. I am sure they will instantly recognize it as a perceptive and cogent statement, and will publish it under a prominent headline. Uh, right?
UPDATE Nov 6: The Tribune did publish the letter, though not formatted quite as I wished. Two days later they also included on their web page (but not in print) my suggestion (about halfway down here) for transit funding from land value.
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