Sprawl Can be Curbed by Fair Economics, Not Government Meddling
In Ontario, Sprawl Rampant Despite Greenbelt
Economic development cannot simply be stopped by government decree. Much better to set up a fair tax system and then step aside, letting development go where people actually want it -- in urban areas, not the countryside.
Here is a news release from the Green Party of Ontario, Canada.
"The Greenbelt has become little more than a minor irritant to developers," said Frank de Jong, Green Party of Ontario leader. "Sprawl will remain unstoppable until financial incentives to re-develop existing urban areas becomes greater than incentives to build on farmland and wild spaces."
The Greenbelt is under siege. Oakville is budgeting $13 million to fight developers at the OMB over Greenbelt development. Pickering Council is attempting to remove 1,900 hectares from the agricultural preserve inside the Greenbelt. York politicians have approved the "big pipe" through the Oak Ridges moraine against Greenbelt regulations, and Peel Region has approved 24 sq km of new sprawl near Brampton. Furthermore, the 4-lane highways the Government plans to build throughout Southern Ontario will facilitate sprawl outside the Greenbelt.
Governments may attempt to preserve farmland and wild areas but financial feedback loops force builders to use every means available to continue to build car-dependent sprawl. Regulations to conserve land are invariably overwhelmed by financial incentives to build sprawl.
To balance the incentive for construction with the incentive for conservation, the Green Party of Ontario would apply site value charges to land as part of a tax shift off of personal incomes and business income. At present, land and energy are undervalued resulting in sprawl, while labour is over-taxed resulting in unemployment and overseas outsourcing. Site Value Taxation increases the carrying cost of owning land, thus encouraging the sale of underused land within existing urban areas for re-construction.
(Green tax shifting is revenue-neutral. Government revenue generated by Site Value Taxation is designed to recoup the revenue lost to lower income and business taxes.)
Housing is needed in the GTA to accommodate the one million more people expected over the next decades, but this housing will be more energy efficient and socially functional if built as walkable communities within existing urban boundaries linked by transit.
Like education funding in Ontario, which is raised from property taxes, the health care budget could be moved to land value taxes. "This makes sense," adds de Jong, "Sprawl is a root cause of ill health in the first place."
The Green Tax Shift
The Sprawl Information Center
Green Party of Ontario
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