The True Costs of Edmonton’s Urban Sprawl is on its Citizens

Posted by Gurpreet Ghatehora on Monday, December 14th, 2015 at 10:30am.

Times are tough, everyone in Edmonton knows and feels this, and many are looking at how the city planning for its ability to both generate much-needed money and help the city and surrounding area stay viable and healthy. And one housing expert says that Edmonton’s approach to housing could end up costing its citizens, and the City itself, a lot of money.

Professor Avi Friedman of McGill University recently spoke in St. Albert about Edmonton’s suburb and sprawl problems, and how they end up hurting tax payers. Friedman argues that low-density neighbourhoods, and new suburbs are not only taking up space, but actually make the city as a whole take a hit in terms of tax revenue. The city, in turn, needs to increase its industrialization to compensate for the revenue, but the sprawl makes zoning and fitting in these new areas much more difficult. The result: lower tax revenues and a struggling city. “Building a suburban community is a loss to the public at large,” Friedman says, “We subsidize a wonderful lifestyle, but it makes no sense.”

His solution, however, is simple: build higher density neighbourhoods. Such mixed-use areas with more people could create scenarios where everything they need is close by, reducing transportation costs and time, and mixing areas together to help keep revenue steady for the municipality.

Higher density neighbourhoods can also help offset Edmonton’s other growing problem: the inability for younger people to actually ever afford a house. With Edmonton’s sprawling suburbs and new subdivisions, families are often required to have two vehicles before they can even start saving up for a down payment on a house.

The good news, however, is that Edmonton has started to see this as an issue, and is making attempts to both bring people back to the downtown core, and reduce the sprawl of new suburbs. Suburbs from the eighties, according to The Edmonton Journal, are lower density than newer developments since, and that can help the city move towards a healthier, more sustainable plan that works for all its citizens.

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