Under the headline, Proposed bylaw would add thousands of dollars to cost of new homes, The Citizen’s Joanne Chianello notes that city looking at increasing development charges (DCs) for new home builds:
On Monday, the city released a draft of the updated bylaw under which the DC for a single detached home inside the Greenbelt jumps almost 25 per cent to $21,959. In the suburbs, where it’s generally considered more expensive to extend municipal infrastructure services, the DCs for a single detached will be $32,875 — a $7,500 increase.
The headline and text are correct. This move will add to the costs of new homes. However, as much as this can be framed as a burden placed on new development, it is more accurate to think of this as a correction to current policy. New developments in Ottawa contribute immensely to urban sprawl. Suburban and exurban development demands spending on new infrastructure and places demands on current infrastructure. Considering that habit of avoiding true mix-use development, we wind up making a bunch of bedroom communities which require people to hop in the car or on the bus in order to go many (most?) places. The reason for added development charges is to account for these added costs.
Further, the externalities created by these developments aren’t limited simply to added road costs. First of all, the roads use up public space, turning green space into asphalt. The vast majority of our public space is paved over for automobiles. This is an added demand created by development.
Increased transportation in the form of cars and buses (and, eventually, the LRT) results in added pollution. By living a commuter lifestyle, people are degrading a common resource. In addition, more traffic means more congestion (except for the LRT–though it will indirectly create more traffic). Increased congestion means greater delays–meaning that residents who aren’t living such a lifestyle still must deal with the added traffic burden.
When someone makes choices that have the potential to negatively affect others, it is only natural for policy-makers to try to make sure that those costs are internalized rather than socialized. One of the ways this can be done is by attempting to role those costs into the actual price of the good or service. That’s what the city is doing here. There are a bunch of costs that come with sprawl, and those costs should, first and foremost, fall upon those creating the demand for sprawl. (If it also happens to lower the demand for sprawl, well, that’s not a bad thing either.)