Case Study Paper Abstracts

Reading Henry George in Informal and Insurgent Bengaluru
Bringing Racialized Labor Back into Land Rent Debates 

Author
Sai Balakrishnan, University of California, Berkeley, USA (sbalakrishnan@berkeley.edu)

Abstract

In 1886, Henry George ran his mayoral campaign for New York City on the platform of a single tax, i.e. a tax that would capture “unearned” ground rents and plough them into the public coffers. In the post-1970s cities of the global south, there has been a wildly popular resurgence and reinterpretation of Georgist “land value capture” ideas. This talk offers a provocation of reading Henry George in informal and insurgent Bengaluru. The point of the talk is not to compare strikingly dissimilar cities—late 19th century New York City and post-1970s Bengaluru—with their varied trajectories of capitalist land development. Rather, this talk recuperates and reveals key institutional kernels of land value capture that explains the appeal of these instruments to populist leaders across different places and time-periods. One such kernel is that variations of land-value-capture have been mobilized during specific racialized working-class struggles. Henry George’s single tax mayoral campaign was situated in the context of the Gilded Age labor movement in late 19th century U.S, and his campaign was strongly supported by the then racially subordinated Irish American immigrant workers. The explosive rise of unauthorized land developments in post-1970s Bengaluru coincided with the 1970s global turn to flexible specialization and it exemplified a subversive mode of land value capture with insurgent land occupants of middle-caste Vokkaligas appropriating land rents for their informal, small-scale manufacturing clusters. By juxtaposing these urban experiences, this talk argues that land value capture instruments have long been embedded within racialized labor movements and struggles, and it is an urgent call for bringing the working-class squarely into debates of landed property and ground rent.   


Land Readjustment and Value Captures in Taiwan
A Contested Ground between Planning Ideology and Real Estate Practices

Author
Hsiutzu Betty Chang, National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan (hsiutzuchang@mail.ncku.edu.tw)
Lap-I Kuok, National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan (n78101042@gs.ncku.edu.tw)

Abstract

Land readjustment areas have always been the sites where planners practice international planning concepts in Taiwan since the 20th century. Ideologically, utopian visions are often found in the plans of land readjustment areas, hoping to promote living quality and social interactions. Fiscally, land readjustment is an important land-value capture tool to reduce the front-funding of infrastructure investment and to increase land value through rezoning. However, research has challenged land readjustment as a public policy for its unfair distribution of the benefits, such as potentially excluding the poor and guaranteeing profits to only landowners and developers. This case study discusses Jiu-Fen-Zi, a former fish farming area at the fringe of Tainan City that is now known as one of the most popular low-carbon eco-communities in Taiwan. Variations of value capture mechanisms were found at the replotting, planning, land sale, and land development stages. First, the land value increased during the proposal stage of land readjustment. Second, the revision of the readjustment plan with eco-community features and partial densification raised its profile in the real estate market. Third, land value has drastically increased because of its high-profile status as a national model eco-community in the past decade. Forth, zoning regulations were relaxed to improve the feasibility of development. Finally, intensification of land subdivision and development units was found in the housing development proposals as a result of increased land value and construction cost during COVID-19. Gradually, the development trend began to run in the opposite direction of the ecological and low-carbon vision and could potentially damage the basic quality of life and affordability of individual dwellings. These findings highlight the critical role of land readjustment as a value capture tool in Taiwan and as a contested ground between planning ideology and real estate profits.   


Back to Basics?  Setting up the Basic Floor Area Ration for Value Capture in Two Brazilian Cities 

Author
Enrique R. Silva, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, USA (esilva@lincolninst.edu)
Luis Quintanilla 

Abstract

Brazilian cities are empowered to generate own-source revenue from the sale of development rights, and they have the zoning tools to encourage those sales.  To generate revenue from the sale of development rights, a city can cap as-of-right densities by assigning a universal, basic floor area ratio (FAR), and then establish additional buildable areas above the cap that can be attained only by purchasing the additional air rights. Proponents of this mechanism argue not only that it puts all property owners on a level playing field, but also that it signals that air rights are a public asset that could be used to raise revenue to fund needed infrastructure and services.  In Sao Paulo, the country’s largest city and economic hub, the municipality has been able to generate billions of dollars from property owners and developers who have wanted to build beyond their basic allowed density.  Recently, funds from those sales have been pooled to help fund services and housing needs in under-served sections of the city.  Despite Sao Paulo’s experience and after considerable political challenges, only Recife and Belo Horizonte have embraced this land value capture approach in Brazil. Belo Horizonte and Recife’s embrace of the sale of development rights speaks to the opportunities and challenges of the adoption of land value capture in Brazil and elsewhere.  Applying a basic FAR in ways that incentivize the sale of development rights is politically and ideologically challenging, as it forces a debate on property rights, the ownership of land values, the nature and role of planning regulations, and the use of revenue generated from real estate development.  Recife and Belo Horizonte’s recent embrace of the sale of development rights not only highlights the challenges facing the implementation of land value capture tools, but also the strategies cities have taken to unify support for land value capture across economic, social and political sectors.  This case study covers the economic, legal, political and social dimensions of land value capture policies in tools.  


Subsidizing Sunset: Transforming Urban Planning in Post-Handover Hong Kong

Author
Ben Gerlofs, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (bgerlofs@hku.hk)

Abstract

After more than a decade of planning, a major expansion of the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway (MTR) opened to travelers in the final days of 2014, extending service to Kennedy Town at the northwestern corner of Hong Kong Island. The planning process surrounding this extension—from its ideational inception shortly after the city was returned to China in 1997 through its final completion in the immediate aftermath of the massive protests known as the Umbrella Movement in 2014—provides a unique vantage on dynamic transformations of the Hong Kong Government, its relationships to public and private interests, its valuation of urban land, and its approach to urban (re)development. Through an analysis of a variety of archival materials and expert interviews, this case study reveals the complex processes by which the planning priorities and practices of this Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) evolved and cohered in an exceptionally tense and uncertain political environment. Specifically, this analysis highlights an evolution in thought on the value of urban land and the specific mechanisms developed and deployed for its management in practice, especially through land value capture.     


Vertical Development as False-Choice Neoliberalism
The Case of Santiago, Chile, 2010-2019 

Author
Ernesto López-Morales, Universidad San Sebastián, Patagonia Campus, Chile, ernesto.lopez@uss.cl 

Abstract

This paper sees radical upzoning as an example of Tom Slater’s (2014) idea of neoliberal false-choice urbanism. In Chile, this upzoning appears as the only alternative to counteract a) urban sprawl and inner-city decline and b) rising land and construction costs (due to verticalization’s higher economies of scale). However, while Santiago has seen the intensive verticalization of several central boroughs, with 20-to-40 story buildings accompanied by growing densities and decreasing flat sizes, housing rent and prices, housing overcrowding in new flats, displacement, and conflicts with traditional local neighbors have risen. Meanwhile, the housing shortage is growing in the city. 

I present a simple research question: is radical upzoning the solution to solve the housing shortage and inner-city redevelopment? I hypothesize that Santiago’s verticalized housing market is not a solution but a problem as it works primarily as a rent accumulation system based on a perpetual housing scarcity that keeps residents’ housing demand inelastic. In other words, residents pay too-high housing prices and rents because displacement is their only residential alternative (López-Morales, 2015). In a nutshell, amid housing scarcity, their overpayments sustain private developers’ and landlords’ returns.  

This case-study analysis draws on the principle of “triangulation” in applying various methods to a single research problem and using multiple data sources, methods, investigations, and theoretical perspectives (Nijman, 2007; Schlichtman & Patch, 2008). I apply multivariate regression and bivariate analysis vis-à-vis qualitative interview material and historical narratives collected over the years. The quantitative data comes from multiple sources, like the Tax Revenue Service and the Real Estate Conservatory, municipal building regulations, population census data, interest rates and taxes, and macroeconomic descriptors of mortgage debt and the housing investment market.  

Based on a reinterpretation of the four-quadrant model by DiPasquale & Wheaton (1996), the results show an interrelation of several principal variables (Dröes & van den Minne). Firstly, a growing housing demand mismatches a steady housing production volume, apparently due to developers’ fixed production quotas (Herrera & López-Morales, 2021), reflecting tacit collusion among them (Lefort & Vargas, 2010). Secondly, rent-seeking investors and companies accumulate more than 50% of the new housing stock due to lowered interest rates making the housing supply for first-time buyers growingly unavailable. Thirdly, developers’ profits grow in the form of ‘density rents’ (Shih et al., 2019) and air rights (Chen, 2019) as planning and construction ordinances maximize building heights with a significant impact on old low-rise neighborhoods, but in the end, this extra density is unable to reduce housing prices. Other variables like construction costs, population rises due to immigration, capitalization rates, etc., are also observed. In sum, Santiago’s housing problem comes from an enlarged demand, a fixed supply, and abnormal absorption of land rent by developers and housing rent by investors. In the conclusions, I present several existing ideas to regulate this market.


Fulfillment Prophecy: The Politics of Amazon’s Expansion in Greater Chicagoland 

Author
Lauren Nolan, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University, USA (len27@scarletmail.rutgers.edu)

Abstract

This case considers the politics and processes surrounding the development of large-scale Amazon fulfillment centers in Chicago’s south suburbs. The geography of goods movement has changed appreciably over the past decade, placing strategically-situated communities like Chicago’s south suburbs at the center of debates over the benefits of such facilities, the environmental and other costs they impose, and how planning decisions should be made. Using document and public record analysis, it illuminates these debates, examining three facets of Amazon’s expansion. First are the tools such as controversial tax breaks municipalities have used to usher in the development of these fulfillment centers. Second, it illuminates the political processes and power structures governing the placement of these facilities—processes that unfold amid structural conditions impacting investment and disinvestment, land valuation, and equity concerns. Third, this case explores the role of the public in the development process, narratives various actors use to characterize these developments, and what they mean for the futures of these communities. This case furthers our understanding of how these political processes and mechanisms unfold in the warehouse development context, and the tensions and tradeoffs they produce. Specifically, it considers the ways in which the expectations and attitudes of actors involved become self-fulfilling prophecies, which in turn dictate who benefits from such development, who bears the cost, and who gets to make these planning decisions.    


Liquid Assets: Riverfront Development and the Case of Lincoln Yards 

Author
Rachel Weber, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA (rachelw@uic.edu)
Sevin Yildiz, University of Illinois at Chicago (seviny@uic.edu

Abstract

Developer Sterling Bay purchased 55 acres of land flanking the Chicago River to build Lincoln Yards, an ambitious mixed residential, retail, and entertainment development that includes thousands of on-site jobs and housing units. Knowing that values would increase once the land’s industrial zoning was lifted, the city designated a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district in the area and agreed to allocate $1.2 billion to Sterling Bay – the largest TIF subsidy in the City’s history. Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed the TIF designation through City Council in early 2019 because land values were rising rapidly in anticipation of the project and would disqualify the area from being classified as “blighted.” In effect, the city was racing to get out ahead of the speculation that Sterling Bay’s purchase and its own policies induced – in order to pay for the subsidy it had already committed.  

Because TIF turns the city into a co-speculator with the developer, depending on value uplift to pay back costs for infrastructure and subsidies, it may be less inclined to make critical investments in a river corridor that absorbs stormwater run-off and is aggravated by extreme weather events. The current plan for Lincoln Yards lacks an integrative ecological approach for the corridor and instead develops impervious surfaces for the new workers, residents, and visitors that may worsen the effects of climate change. Advocates have been pushing new models of riparian development, such as natural edges, wetlands, and passive landscaping as well as climate-adaptive ordinances or overlay zoning to shape the planning for sensitive sites – but these investments may not increase values and could instead lower them. 

We hypothesize that the financial relationships embodied by TIF create disincentives to use public revenues to pay for ecological restoration. Our study documents the planning and construction process for Lincoln Yards from 2017 through 2023. We hope to shed light on such complex questions as: 

  • Are ecological and financial values compatible in the case of this megaproject? 
  • Do the logics of municipal financing tools like Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and ecosystem services contradict the goals of other climate change policies? 
  • What kinds of zoning overlays and financing tools should be designed for river corridors to prepare them for future ecological roles as green infrastructures?  

Intensification and Land Value Capture in Toronto Community Benefits and the Production of Urban Space 

Author
André Sorensen, University of Toronto, Canada (andre.sorensen@utoronto.ca)

Abstract

Since 2000 Toronto has seen a surge of intensification and redevelopment within existing built-up areas, prompted by ‘smart growth’ policies to reduce urban sprawl and shifting residential location preferences in favour of downtown locations. At the same time, the city enacted policies to increase land value capture (LVC) through development charges (DCs), density bonus agreements (S.37), and park space requirements (S.45), to build infrastructure related to increased densities. Land value capture associated with intensification processes can be an important source of municipal finance, varies greatly between jurisdictions, and research has shown that the details matter greatly for outcomes (Shih and Shieh 2020, Weber 2021). In Toronto, density bonus and park space benefits are negotiated on a discretionary case by case basis, and are often appealed to planning administrative tribunals such as the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). The ‘rules of the game’ in Toronto are contested both in the Ontario legislature which has seen repeated attempts to reduce exactions, and through appeals to administrative tribunals over individual projects. Yet the scale of exactions has increased unilinearly over the last two decades, in terms of overall revenue, and per square meter of built space.  

This paper examines the evolution in time and space of LVC practice in Toronto, quantifying and mapping the amount of LVC for all developments with density bonus agreements. Data on the value of all exactions standardized per square meter of built floorspace over 20 years will be analysed by location, development type, density, and timing. As non-monetary benefits such as land, POPS, heritage preservation, public realm improvements, and affordable housing units are a major part of exactions (estimated at approximately 40% of total value capture), this study includes case studies of the built form achieved in neighbourhoods where a significant share of all parcels have been redeveloped, documenting both the quality of urban environments produced, and the role of non-monetary exactions in producing them.  


Treasure Hill as a Value Practice
Housing Alternatives, Squatter Landscape, and the Politics of Land

Author

Mi Shih, Associate Professor, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University (mi.shih@ejb.rutgers.edu
Fang-Cheng Lin, Architect, Trans-Pacific Community Design architects (fchenglin@gmail.com
Min-Jay Kang, Associate Professor, Graduate Institute of Building and Planning, National Taiwan University (kminjay@ntu.edu.tw
John K.C. Liu, Chair, Building and Planning Research Foundation, National Taiwan University
(kcliu@ntu.edu.tw

 Abstract

In this case study, we examine the ongoing pro-housing planning that has centered on the highly contested process through which key actors articulate and enact what it is about the Treasure Hill squatter settlement that Taipei should value. Through self-help housing in the 1960s, low-ranking soldiers from mainland China and local low-income families began to build shelters in Treasure Hill. It quickly grew into a home for more than 200 families and 500 residents before the Taipei City Government zoned the public land into an urban park in 1980, relegating the vibrant community to a problem of land-use violation and foreshadowing the official announcement of demolition in 1993. Today, Treasure Hill is an “International Art Village,” which the city government promotes widely, even subsidizing artists-in-residence from around the world. Also living on site are 28 original residents; however, whether the city government will continue to honor their right to stay put remains unclear and is a focus of continuous contestation. This case study situates Treasure Hill’s newfound recognition, visibility, and international staging amid the hard-earned and ongoing threat to housing in the politics of value and land. Through mixed methods of ethnographic research and participatory planning, we examine the two value conceptualizations that have been at the core of the debates since the pro-housing planning first began as an anti-demolition movement in the late 1990s. On the one hand, there is a set of deep human and use values realized through the practice of what John F.C. Turner calls housing as a verb. On the other, there are the heterogeneous, self-built spaces that are the material basis for people to stay put, make do, and fulfill on their own terms, making Treasure Hill’s landscape an aesthetic alternative to Taipei’s otherwise homogenized cityscape produced by the real estate industry and professional design. Further complicating the contested valuation of Treasure Hill is Taipei’s entrepreneurial governance that valorizes and extracts land’s monetary value. Since the 1990s, the city government has engaged in systematic clearings of communities built on public lands while simultaneously rolling out neoliberal urban redevelopment. This case study shows how planners struggle to align the preservation of Treasure Hill’s landscape, through discursive, legal, and physical practices, with residents’ rights to stay put. In other words, approaching planning as a value practice necessarily means that the landscape is only valuable when it is peopled by the residents who thrive in its enacted human values. A landscape devoid of people is a diorama and mockery of Taipei’s squatter urbanism. Such a value practice is a highly political project. At the minimum, it demands that the city government rescind the officially announced demolition decision. More critically, it has emerged as a means of historical preservation and physical planning with the aim of caring for and valuing the marginal, the poor, and the alternative in the city. We argue that it is this potentially broad-based challenge to the normalization of market value as an organizing principle of urban land development that is the most significant political space that the material space of Treasure Hill has opened.     


Civic Mobilization and Public Land in West Philadelphia’s Mantua Neighborhood 2013-2022 

Author
Laura Wolf-Powers, CUNY Hunter College, USA (aw2416@hunter.cuny.edu)

Abstract

This paper considers the land-related actions of civil society organizations in the West Philadelphia neighborhood of Mantua in the 2010s, a time during which Drexel University’s assembly of land and capital for innovation-themed real estate projects was exerting extreme upward pressure on property prices in that neighborhood and other nearby low-income areas. It explores the terms on which resident-controlled groups mobilized to gain title to city-owned land so as to initiate new development they saw as compatible with the character of their neighborhood: namely, renter- and owner-occupied units affordable to people with stable but relatively low incomes. As market-driven appreciation of real estate close to Drexel’s uCity Square and Schuylkill Yards developments proceeded, leaders in Mantua identified publicly owned vacant land as a potential resource and moved to enable mission-driven organizations to acquire it. At the same time, they engaged in what many members of the larger policy community regarded as a misguided effort to change neighborhood zoning to disallow as-of-right development of multi-unit buildings.  

Mantua organizations’ modestly successful efforts during this period illustrate the profound obstacles that face community actors attempting to valorize land as a source of social, cultural, and ecological value separate from its worth as a fungible financial asset. As they negotiated the byzantine politics of economic development policy, land use regulation, and public land disposition in the City of Philadelphia, the groups found themselves in a variety of governmental arenas where land-related social practices were distorted both by perceived fiscal imperatives and by constructions of value wedded to the interests of distant financial investors. The paper speculates on the potential for grassroots organizations and progressive legislators to create institutions and norms that disrupt these dynamics going forward. 


Remaking Community: Creating and Recreating Newark’s Central Ward 

Author
Kathe Newman, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University, USA
(knewman@rutgers.edu)
Elana Simon, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University, USA (ers155@scarletmail.rutgers.edu)

Abstract

This paper contributes to one of the key conference themes on social futures and the place of the public in defining and negotiating captured value. As an instrument, land value is deemed capture once it is appraised and extracted; the process is transactional and delivers in-kind or cash contributions from the developer. Through the case study of Main Street Cohousing’s rezoning process, this paper examines land value capture not as a “fair” value exchanged at a moment in time between the City and the developer, but as multiple moments over several years by many stakeholders making calculations and decisions. The rezoning process in Vancouver is the main way to add density whereby the developer seeks permission from City Council to enact a by-law change to alter the zoning designation, which dictates the density and land use, of a particular land parcel. Community Amenity Contribution payments from rezoning have also become a significant source of funding for public facilities and infrastructure. 

This paper follows an exchange value in land as it is created, captured, negotiated, and transformed into greater use value. In a neoliberal housing context that is characterized by excessive commodification and unattainability, the examination sheds light on the experiments, challenges, and compromises planners, developers, and middle-class families face and the resulting decisions they make together that both adhere and defy market rationality. Adopting the agency and relational perspectives on land value capture, the broader question this discussion seeks to answer is how local initiatives could be scaled or become mainstream – a question I return to at the end of the case study. 


Land Value Creation, Capture, and Transformation
Housing Decommodification and Cohousing in Vancouver

Author
Leslie Shieh, Tomo Spaces, Canada (ls@tomospaces.com)

Abstract

This paper contributes to one of the key conference themes on social futures and the place of the public in defining and negotiating captured value. As an instrument, land value is deemed capture once it is appraised and extracted; the process is transactional and delivers in-kind or cash contributions from the developer. Through the case study of Main Street Cohousing’s rezoning process, this paper examines land value capture not as a “fair” value exchanged at a moment in time between the City and the developer, but as multiple moments over several years by many stakeholders making calculations and decisions. The rezoning process in Vancouver is the main way to add density whereby the developer seeks permission from City Council to enact a by-law change to alter the zoning designation, which dictates the density and land use, of a particular land parcel. Community Amenity Contribution payments from rezoning have also become a significant source of funding for public facilities and infrastructure. 

This paper follows an exchange value in land as it is created, captured, negotiated, and transformed into greater use value. In a neoliberal housing context that is characterized by excessive commodification and unattainability, the examination sheds light on the experiments, challenges, and compromises planners, developers, and middle-class families face and the resulting decisions they make together that both adhere and defy market rationality. Adopting the agency and relational perspectives on land value capture, the broader question this discussion seeks to answer is how local initiatives could be scaled or become mainstream – a question I return to at the end of the case study.