Comment 106268

By Selway (registered) | Posted November 18, 2014 at 00:22:57 in reply to Comment 106257

As you point out, the comments are somewhat off topic, but if you can't beat em join em, so instead of discussing this article, I will discuss another one, namely your piece last month on the costs of sprawl. (Yes, yes, Right Railers, I understand that Light Rail is also a putative development tool.) While the premises of your argument seem sound enough, we need more local specifics. You say

"The downtown house, being closer to the economic and cultural action, is worth more. So the downtown house ends up paying $4,500 for $3,500 of services and the suburban one pays $3,500 for $4,500 in services, making a $1,000 cross-subsidy from urban efficiency to suburban waste."

I am not sure that this is entirely the case in Hamilton. My impression is that in fact residential property is not estimated more highly in the old city than in the more recent suburbs. Westdale is a probable exception as is the old money bench above Aberdeen west of James. But again, it is my impression, I have not looked into it very closely.

Also, it is a misleading simplification to assume, as many proponents of lower city intensification seem to do, that services in the older built up area are kind of a natural endowment that we can use comparatively cheaply. Some of the older infrastructure needs to be renewed, and in any case some areas currently scheduled for development in the old city require as much brand new servicing as any greenfield project. The buildings on the escarpment face at 467 Charlton, if built, will require water and wastewater service de novo; west harbour development at piers 6, 7, and 8 requires at least a major sewage pumping upgrade; and Barton Tiffany will also require moslty new everything.

What would be useful, IMHO, is some visualization of the data as maps. For example, the last notice of assessment we got from MPAC indicated two neighbourhoods deemed by MPAC to be very like the one in which the house being assessed was located. If we had a map of these sibling neighbourhoods i.e those with housing of similar market value, and therefore similar municipal property tax contributions, and an equivalent mapping of infrastructure costs, we could begin to make some meaningful assertions about the (possible) re-distribution of tax revenue from one area of this city to another.

We might also be able to say how much density was required at, for example, the corner of Rymal Road and Upper Mount Albion Road, currently proposed for single and town house development, to cover the true costs of servicing that block.

Preparing maps of this sort would not be an easy task. Your article pointed out some of the complications. However, without a fair bit of detail, one is left in the extremely difficult political position of saying to the electorate in the outer suburbs (as you were not quite blunt enough to express it) that the parasite thinks it's the host. This is not going to be a helpful slogan.

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