Авторы: 159 А Б В Г Д Е З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я

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THE LESSON OF THE SLUMS

Or take the illustration of a slum area. Each tumble−down tenement is rated and taxed on the assessment

based upon its annual rental value. In many places in the central parts of towns the total of these assessments

is less than the sum for which the whole site could be sold as a building area, nevertheless if all the tenements

fall or are pulled down the site may remain vacant for years and no rates or taxes are paid. But if substantial

and decent buildings are erected on the site, immediately the assessment is raised to their full annual value.

The individual or public body that has cleared away the slum and erected something decent in its place is thus

immediately punished for doing so, with the result that such a thing is seldom done except at the public

expense. The remedy for all these absurdities is quite a simple one. No one disputes that the sums necessary

for municipal and imperial taxation have got to be provided. The question is, in so far as they are to be raised

from lands and buildings, how can they be assessed most fairly and with the least injury to trade and

commerce? They should be assessed upon the value of land which is not due to any effort of the owner or

occupier; they should not be assessed upon nor increased because of any buildings which he may have erected

or any improvements which he may have carried out. This question was closely investigated by the Land Enquiry Committee appointed by Mr. Lloyd George in

1913. They were unanimous in condemning the existing system and in regarding the one which I have just

described as the ideal. They were, however, met by great difficulties in its immediate practical application,

because, owing to the long prevalence of the wrong system, an immediate and total change would bring about

rather startling alterations in the value of existing properties. The Committee closely considered these

objections, and a number of alternative methods of bringing the change into operation gradually and without

these drastic changes in value were put forward. The one which immediately suggested itself as the simplest,

and from many points of view the most desirable, was to leave the rates and taxes of existing properties on

their present basis, to impose them at their present rate on the annual value of all unoccupied land, but to

exempt from rates and taxes all future buildings and improvements of every kind.

To illustrate the way in which this would work, let us revert to the case of a block of slum property. As long

as it remained in its present condition the existing valuation based upon the annual rent obtainable for it would

apply, but any parts of it which now are or may hereafter become unoccupied, would, instead of escaping as

they do now from all rates and taxes, contribute on the basis of the value of their sites, which would be

assessed at an annual rent for the purpose of comparison with the existing valuations, at least until the capital

values of the whole rating area could be ascertained. If any improvements were carried out the assessments

would not be raised on that account, as they would be under present conditions, and if a whole area were

pulled down, replanned and rebuilt, the assessment instead of being based, as it would be to−day, on the

annual value of the reconstructed property, would be based upon the site value alone. Gradually in this way

site value would become the prevalent basis of assessment. "It is obvious," as the Committee said in 1913,

"that unrating of future improvements is from the economic point of view of far more importance than the

unrating of existing improvements; if we want to encourage new buildings and new improvements, what is

really important is to ensure that new improvements (not old ones) shall be exempt from the burden of rates."

The Committee were, however, compelled to reject this suggestion at that time on the ground that "it would

cause an unfair differentiation between the man who had already put up buildings or improvements, and the

man who put up buildings or improvements after the passing of the Act." But as between buildings and

improvements which existed before the war and those which come into existence under post−war conditions

no such unfairness could operate, because the increase in the cost of building even to−day is greater than the

benefit which would accrue from the unrating of improvements. The present is therefore the unique

opportunity for bringing into force this much−needed reform in the most effective way, free from the

difficulties which had to be met in 1913. If it had been carried out immediately after the Armistice it would, in

my opinion, have done more than anything else to solve the housing problem, and even now it is not too late.

In fact, in view of the present unemployment it would be most opportune. Incidentally it would soon render

unnecessary the renewal of the Rent Restriction Act. I understand that something on these lines has been

introduced in New York to meet a similar problem.