Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Debunking the Growth Myth...

I have been spending a lot of time rereading the urban studies and planning tomes that I have accumulated over the past 20 years. They are many and I've got my work cut out for me. I've been doing this for a number of reasons, one being the fact that I am soon to be unemployed and I hope to actually find employment in the field of study that I went to college for. The other is to better understand the way our built environment is holding Windsor back from becoming the livable and creative community I know that it can be.

One of the first books that I chose to reread is one I cited a few weeks ago on this blog. "Better Not Bigger" by Eben Fodor is a resource geared towards community activists, politicians and planners to educate them on how to take control of urban growth and improve your community. It is a great read, and I am going to be using some of its lessons here on SDW to try and debunk a lot of the long-held myths about the urban growth machine. "The Twelve Big Myths Of Growth" is one chapter that our city councillors need to know, so over the course of the next month, you will get the chance here.

Myth Number 1
Growth Provides Needed Tax Revenues

Reality check: Growth tends to raise local tax rates. The direct and indirect costs of urban growth place new demands on local resources and divert money away from other important public services.

We hear that the more people and businesses we attract to our community, the more tax revenues we will have. Supposedly this will generate surplus funds and enable us to get more public services or pay for a new library or concert hall we couldn't have afforded otherwise, without increasing our individual tax burden. Citizens hoping for a tax windfall from new development are likely to be disappointed. While growth does result in a larger overall tax base, it usually costs more money than it generates, resulting in a net fiscal drain. Harvard economists Alan Altshuler and Jose Gomez-Ibanez report that:

"The available evidence shows that development does not cover new public costs; that is, it brings in less revenue for local governments than the price of servicing it."
In spite of the available evidence, there is an astonishing lack of awareness about the relationship between urban growth and local taxes. One possible reason is the number of good studies looking at this relationship is still quite small. While our local governments spend billions of dollars every year on new infrastructure to serve growth, few have deemed it worthwhile to examine how much it costs, and who pays for it and who benefits from it.
Read the rest of the argument against Myth Number 1 here.


Mark Boscariol said...

Looking for employment in urban planning.

How about starting a petition to get our city's planning department to hire you?

Chris Holt said...

I can do that?!?

I would have to give it a lot of thought, though. If I was successful, I would have bosses who believe that big-box stores and 6 lane urbanhighways are "SmartGrowth"

I don't know how much of an impact I would have at the City Of Windsor.

been there done that said...

You would totally loose your effectiveness if you worked for the City. You can't fight City hall if you work for it.

Anonymous said...

PRIVATE SECTOR, young man! Start up your own consulting business.

That's the only way to go.