Thursday, November 6, 2008

The time for buying up land for the public?

100_0007    What benefits to land use policy arise by virtue of the housing price slump?  One answer is that governments and private organizations may be more able to buy the ownership of, or at least the development rights to, environmentally important areas, now that real estate prices are low.  In Hillsborough County, Florida, near where I live, the voters on Tuesday approved (here in Florida, citizens vote on just about everything, even things that most of them have no reason to understand) the extension of a program for the public purchase of environmentally sensitive lands in a rapidly growing county.  A national database of votes on such systems is here.
    True, governments are hurting for money these days, and proposals for new “non-essential” spending programs are unlikely to stir up much interest in many lawmakers.  But asking citizens whether they are willing to a pay a few dollars to buy land is more likely to get a positive political response than would a vote on raising taxes to do the same thing.  Just as it made sense for government to buy lands for parks in the low-value 1930s, now (and not when prices are high) is the sensible time to purchase (and make reasonable exercises of eminent domain) more public lands.

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