What Price Growth?

By Ben Bull
Published October 22, 2008

Debunking the mantra that growth is good, Halton council voted yesterday to forgo the hookup of sewage and water pipes for any new development, until appropriate fees can be negotiated.

"Growth is not paying for itself," said Regional chair Gary Carr. "Until it does, we are not going to continue to grow. It's as simple as I can put it."

Part of the challenge for Halton, is the stress all these new residents are putting on the regional healthcare system.

"The tipping point seems to be the increasing sums the region is being told to pay for badly needed new and renovated hospitals," reports the Star, "which councillors say will place an unacceptable drain on municipal budgets. Those new homes would bring an extra 120,000 residents to an already overloaded hospital system over the next 13 years."

In cash-strapped times such as this it pays to ask the simple question – how much does growth cost?

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.


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By jason (registered) | Posted October 22, 2008 at 19:56:52

people who have been asking this question for years are always brushed aside by the establishment and the media as 'wackos' or 'crazy activists' etc....

I guess Gary Carr is now a nut-job, punk activist too.

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By mr jones (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2008 at 02:00:14

Seems a much more sensible approach than gambling on sprawl. Is Hamilton going to learn this lesson? Seems that the aerotropolis scheme is stalled... despite the efforts of some city staff (looking at you, guy paparella) and councillors to keep it alive. Good time to write each councillor and let them know that this plan is appearing increasingly foolish.

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By happydaze (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2008 at 13:26:41

Hamilton is one of the slowest growing areas in the Golden Horseshoe.. we should welcome new development especially infill sites where there is infrastructure in place

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By rickrawls (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2008 at 13:43:10

"we should welcome new development especially infill sites where there is infrastructure in place"

That's the whole point. Suburban greenfield development charges don't actually pay for the cost of providing service to new areas, so they actually drain the city revenues. Infill development adds value to exising infrastructure and increases net tax revenues.

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted October 28, 2008 at 14:04:28

We've had an overly simlistic attitude to growth for a long time. We say 'growth is good' as if it's that simple.

Let's say we build 2 houses, one is a townhouse downtown, the other a semi detatched Flamborough. Let's say the Flamborough semi has no roads or pipes - we have to build these which costs +$. We also now have to maintain them - more $. Now let's say the downtown townhouse has roads and pipes but the local hospital is overflowing. The townhouse accomodates more people than the burbs house...We now need to look at expanding the hospital - more $!

Each new development should be looked at in terms of the respective costs and developer fees should reflect the one-time and on-going costs involved. There are obvious economies of scale to be gained through infill projects - the infrastructure is already there and the more traffic you can force onto the existing roads and waste you can flush through the pipes the better the return on the investment (until the infrastructure becomes overloaded at least).

There are a lot of factors to consider. I don't know to what extent our municipalities are really looking at this.

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