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2006 08 05
The Real Cost Of Suburbia
Jack Diamond, the architect of the recently opened Four Seasons Centre for the Arts, has an Op Ed piece in today's Globe and Mail. Titled, "We have the cure. Where's the courage?", the article deftly exposes the real cost to Canadians of those endless suburbs north of highway 407. Diamond writes:
Suburban development has become the predominant form of growth in urban Canada, as this week's Globe and Mail series has illustrated. But what about the wider consequences of this form of low-density growth? We microscopically analyze the cost and effectiveness of our health and education systems, and yet only the vaguest of analyses are made of the cost and effectiveness of our cities or urban configurations. At the end of the day, this could be of even greater social and economic importance than health care and education combined.

It turns out that suburbs return in taxes only a fraction of their real costs. That means non-suburban dwellers pay for the extras: roads, sewers, power, transit, environmental costs for all those SUVs needed to drive to the corner store -- you know, the little things. Oh, and let's not forget water. I fume when the water bill for our downtown home comes in when I know the amount of water used is a tenth of the billed amount. Where does the rest of that money go? Well, let's just say it costs a lot to water those suburban lawns and keep their backyard pools filled and run the storm sewers all the way down to the lake where their waste closes once pristine beaches. For once I'd like suburban dwellers to subsidize me.

What is the solution? We are better able to track costs today than any other time in the history of human existence. Let's make the real cost of subsidizing the suburbs known to everyone. When people in what used to be the City of Toronto realize how much of their taxes goes north to support an increasingly unsustainable lifestyle, odds are that they will take the steps required to stop the subsidy.

Maybe that is unrealistic. After all, the reason for the disaster called amalgamation was to make sustainable communities responsible for the unsustainable ones. Ironically, it might be gas prices that finally force the end to the disaster known as suburbs. $3 per litre gas anyone?

[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 08/05 at 01:10 PM

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