Metro Toronto’s upcoming $2.5 billion transit investment program could be financed by a range of funding sources, says a new CCPA study, and generate a huge benefit to lower-income families in the process.
Public transit is such a boon to lower income commuters that regressive funding measures, like sales tax, are offset by the reductions in income equality, the study says. But corporate income tax can help as well.
The new review by economist Hugh Mackenzie provides a refreshingly practical approach to the political challenges of transit funding that bears consideration here in Metro Vancouver. Mackenzie turns away from property taxes, congestion charges, vehicle levies and area benefitting taxes, always perennial funding favourites with transit policy wonks, but often killers among voters.
Fare increases are also ruled out given the 70 percent share of Toronto transit revenue that already comes out of the fare box.
But Mackenzie says modest sales tax increases, fuel taxes and corporate income tax hikes — Toronto has a very low rate, as does Metro Vancouver — could produce enough revenue to maintain existing services, build new ones and reduce congestion.
A similar approach could help fund Metro Vancouver’s needs — and might pass in the referendum the new government says may be required.
The Metro Vancouver Housing Corp. has confirmed that the Heather Place redevelopment in Vancouver, which will see the replacement of 86 units of social housing and the addition of 144 units of additional rental housing at 14th and Heather, will remain an asset of the corporation.
The May 17 decision should put to rest claims that the project would be sold to a developer for condominiums. In fact, all existing tenants will be able to remain on the site during the phased development, which should go to rezoning later this year.
The project will be built under the city’s Rental 100 program to foster the creation of new rental housing.
It’s an upside down world today for critics of Mayor Gregor Robertson’s Vision Vancouver, who like to claim council is ignoring affordable housing to ensure the city remains a profit playground for developers.
But today’s Sun features a lengthy report from the Urban Development Institute claiming “the high costs of development” in Vancouver, particularly for community amenity charges, may be contributing to high housing costs. If council is pandering to developers, this is a strange way of showing its love.
(As chief city planner Brian Jackson points out, reduced city fees would not necessarily reduce costs, just increase profit.)
According to the UDI analysis, Vancouver’s community amenity charges can be as much as 75 percent of the profit a developer would make by achieving higher density in a rezoning. Land costs in Vancouver are 70 percent higher than those in Burnaby and five times the price in Surrey. Yet construction continues in Vancouver and so do sales.
So the City of Vancouver is actually taking more from developers than neighbouring municipalities while implementing new strategies to build affordable housing . . . and requiring the new buildings to achieve LEED gold standards while we’re at it!
Whatever is the world coming to?
Next question: is Vancouver charging too much? Or are others charging too little?
There is much in common between Halifax and Vancouver — major ports, nearly identical suspension bridges, historic downtown cores — and now this: a debate in the east about removing the Cogswell Interchange, a stub to a freeway that was never built.
Vancouver’s debate on removal of the Viaducts, a similar product of a similar dark time, is scheduled for June.