Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Community Development and Applied Economics

First Advisor

Joshua C. Farley


The region surrounding Burlington, Vermont is in the midst of sparse, decentralized growth which threatens the sense of place from which it has thrived. Many have argued that such development tendencies result from a disconnect between land use incentives at the individual level and the fruits of compact settlement, which materialize at larger scales. Two overarching problems are understood to contribute to this disconnect; the ability to privately appropriate the collectively-created value of land, and the inability to recognize ecological opportunity costs of natural land conversion in land use decisions. One proposed solution is the Land Value Tax (LVT). By raising the cost of holding urban land idle and lowering the cost of development, LVT has been shown to increase housing supply and density within existing urban boundaries as well as decrease housing prices. However, despite its purported benefits, the tax reform is value monistic in its definition of optimal land use and therefore does little to address the second overarching problem.

This research sought to explore the efficacy of a conventional and expanded land value taxation scheme to address both aforementioned problems that contribute to urban sprawl. In article 1, we used a top-down empirical approach via a spatial probit model and a random forest classifier model to understand recent housing development choices across Chittenden County, Vermont as they relate to various parcel and locational characteristics. We then used developers' revealed behaviors to forecast future development given various LVT schemes. Results suggest a trend toward suburban sprawl, with developers favoring locations with higher car dependence and commute times as well as locations closer to farmland. A parcel’s LVT burden yielded a significant, positive effect on development likelihood such that a one unit increase in log-transformed LVT per acre (a $933 increase for the average parcel) is associated with an 11.7% higher development likelihood. However, predicted development under a higher LVT was not found to support suburban sprawl remediation as hypothesized. In article 2, we utilized a bottom-up theoretical approach via a spatially-explicit agent-based model of land-use behaviors to explore the impact of a conventional and expanded LVT scheme that internalizes the ecological impact of land use change into a parcel’s tax burden. Findings suggest that both LVT schemes can increase housing availability and urban infill while mediating the negative effects of land speculation. Furthermore, the expanded land value taxation scheme encouraged more urban density and ecosystem service preservation.



Number of Pages

125 p.