Right now, when developers build new greenfield developments, they pay to build new roads and pipes for them. They do not, however, pay to maintain and replace those roads and pipes over the decades they will be there. They do not pay for the wear and tear on existing roads downstream or widening roads to accommodate the new traffic. They do not pay for plowing the streets, for garbage pickup, for recreation facilities, for fire or ambulance service, or for police patrols. Developers pay a small upfront cost, but leave the majority of the actual costs of new developments to be covered by taxpayers.
This situation hides the true costs of far-flung developments from both developers and homebuyers. If developers faced the real costs of growth, they would build more compact, efficient development that costs all of us less money. Instead, we are subsidizing and encouraging high-cost, far-flung growth.
The result in Halifax is clear: our taxes are going up more and more just to provide the same level of service.
Consider this: from 1992 to 2014, Halifax doubled in size but only grew in population by one fifth. Basically, we all have far more infrastructure to pay for.
Residents of compact communities are, in effect, subsidizing these new greenfield developments. We can get a sense of that subsidy by calculating how much road we all have to pay for per person in different areas of the municipality. In the Regional Centre, there is between one and seven meters of road per person, depending on the location. Outside the core, there are between ten and thirty meters of road. Not only do we need to pay to maintain these roads—and in many cases pipes along those roads—but any services like garbage and plowing must go two, three or even ten times as far to reach the same number of homes.
If we want to get our taxes under control, we need to make the real cost of homes transparent in their price to incentivize low-cost homes where we already have infrastructure.
Right now, a study is underway to analyze how best to charge for many of these services, called “development charges.” We call on the next Council to implement these development charges in full.