Parks, Land Values and Citizinvestor

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Ryan Briggs’ article about how everybody in Philly wants parks but nobody wants to pay for them is a good example of the point I was making about Citizinvestor and club goods:

Citizinvestor might also be helpful for shoring up funding for core public services. Some things city governments pay for are legit public goods, but some are really just club goods that mostly benefit a small group of people. For instance, the park at Rittenhouse Square is really a public good. People from all over the city use that park, as do tourists. The people who live close by benefit most, but they don’t capture all the benefits, which are shared pretty broadly. By contrast, smaller neighborhood parks that are used mostly by the immediate neighbors are more like club goods. There’s a concentrated benefit for the people who live close by, but it’s hard to see how the whole city benefits from maintaining what are basically nice private lawns.

I suggested unloading some of the financial responsibility for maintaining smaller neighborhood parks onto the immediate neighbors, rather than asking all city residents to pay for an amenity enjoyed by a relatively small number of people.

Parks are great, there’s solid evidence that they raise adjacent property values, but what I think that shows is that the people capturing most of the benefits from parks are the people who live directly next to them. It would be totally fair if the city levied a small land tax on parkside land to pay for park maintenance.

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