Public ownership and development of land is a powerful means of controlling the development of an urban area, avoiding high speculative costs of land for housing and public purposes, and siphoning increases in land values that accompany urban growth into the public purse. In Stockholm and Canberra, the balance between these three objectives in the use of public land has differed over time. Control of development has become dominant in Canberra while financial objectives have continued to be important in Stockholm. Whereas public ownership and leasehold tenure of developed land have been used by Stockholm City Council as a means of maintaining a public role in the land market following urban development, the Federal Government in Canberra have done this to a much smaller extent. The City of Stockholm has been an active ground landlord; the Government in Canberra has been almost completely passive, using lease conditions solely as a means of controlling land use. The paper explores historical reasons for the difference between the two cities. Importantly, both the initiative and financial responsibility were taken locally in Stockholm but by the national government in relation to its national capital, Canberra.