Toronto, ON – A report launched today uncovers the hidden costs of urban sprawl and finds that, in some instances, up to 40 per cent of costs for sprawl infrastructure are being passed on to local taxpayers and municipalities. The High Costs of Sprawl: How Building More Sustainable Communities Will Save Us Time and Money shows that sprawl development in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) region weakens municipal finances, damages human health, worsens air and water quality, increases gridlock, threatens the success of Ontario’s agri-food sector and hurts our natural environment.
“The costs of sprawl in the Greater Golden Horseshoe are too high to ignore. We can’t keep destroying our farmland, damaging our air, increasing traffic and financially penalizing residents who live in more efficient communities,” said Environmental Defence’s Aidan Grove-White. “The province has made important changes in recent years under the Places to Grow Act, but we need to do more to flip the planning paradigm on its head and build more sustainable, transit-friendly communities.”
Key findings of the report include:
Sprawl developments are expensive to provide with essential services like roads, schools, drinking water, and sewers. While development charges are expected to cover some of these costs, there can be a gap as big as 40 per cent that local taxpayers and municipalities must cover. In some parts of the GGH, development charges are the same for new sprawl communities as new efficient communities – though sprawl communities are up to 15 per cent more expensive for municipalities to provide services to.
Sprawl risks damaging the GGH’s $50 billion agri-food hub, which is larger than our automotive industry. One of Ontario’s largest employers, our agri-food sector relies on some of Canada’s most valuable farmland, but sprawl development is gobbling up this asset.
Most GGH suburbs experience about the same number of smog days as Toronto. Sprawl also contributes to increases in childhood obesity and poor cardiovascular health.
“We recognize that the GGH’s population is growing and we’ll need new houses and communities,” Grove-White said. “If we build sustainable communities, we can meet growth targets, protect our farmland and create affordable communities where our daily activities are a short walk or transit ride away.”
The Ontario government has started to address this challenge through its Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. While the Growth Plan is an impressive first step towards preventing more sprawl development in the region, the new report suggests ways that Ontario residents, businesses and governments of all levels can help ensure that more walkable, transit-friendly, financially and ecologically sustainable communities are built in the GGH.
The report can be downloaded at environmentaldefence.ca/sprawl-costs
About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.
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