Note — Sep 22, 2019

A Smart Commons

The people at Dark Matter Labs, exploring how some public infrastructure investments lead to rising real estate prices which don’t even recoup costs for the public. Most of the gains are actually in the land value, not even in what is built upon it. How can some of this value be better directed to communities, and how can they be part of the decisions and gains? The article gives a detailed example based on the High Line in NYC and “outline[s] a proposal for democratizing the tools of public investment.” There’s also a strong focus on how such a system based on community would be much better equipped to build the types of cities needed for climate transition.

So instead of the local, adaptable and circular neighbourhoods we need, we get neighbourhoods of extraction, stagnation and loneliness. […]

If our cities are going to be the main sites for public investment in carbon-free sustainable infrastructure, we’re going to need to rethink how the economics behind those investments work. […]

We still think of rising property prices as growth. Yet if the same thing happened to the price of everyday goods, buying a coffee would cost you around £20 ($25…at the time of writing). Now imagine the state paid for the coffee machine. That’s not growth, that’s not even just inflation, that’s subsidised rent seeking. And it’s a cost to all of us. […]

To reiterate — the High Line cost $187m to build, it contributed to an additional uplift of $3.4bn for nearby properties, yet the government has only received $103m in additional property tax. The rest went to private landowners. […]

Writing our documents of ownership as code could allow us to do some interesting things. It could allow us to be much more fine grained about the transactions we make and how value can be created and circulated at a local level. It could allow the terms of those transactions to be rules based, or even based on the performance of the spaces around us — like the improvements to air quality, or reduced energy use.