Multi-Family versus Single-Family Homes in Port Moody
The recent Coronation Park Community Visioning Meeting at City Hall once again echoed the desire of some to freeze this traditional single family neighbourhood in time as if the Evergreen Line were still a fantasy and we still lived in a pre-sustainability and pre-climate change bubble.
Quite apart from the environmental logic of concentrating future population growth in high density multi-family housing in neighbourhoods like Coronation Park that have easy access to shopping, recreation and transit, there is strong taxpayer logic for doing so as well.
Owners of multi-family housing are beginning to understand and question the implicit subsidy in providing infrastructure and delivering municipal services to traditional single family detached homes at the same property tax rate when the real costs are disproportionately larger for the single family area.
The most famous study on these inequities, The Costs of Sprawl, comes from the Real Estate Research Corporation (1976) for the US Environmental Protection Agency and estimates that “road and street systems cost 33 percent less to build and 51 percent less to maintain in a neighborhood of townhouses than in one of single-family conventional houses. The comparable figures for utilities (water, sewer, storm drainage, gas, electricity, and telephone and underground cables) are 58 percent less to build and 30 percent less to maintain.”
I don’t believe that this kind of difference is fairly reflected in the property taxes and utility charges paid per square foot between multi-family and single family housing in Coronation Park, elsewhere in Port Moody, or anywhere else in BC. Further, I’m sure a case could easily be made that explains something of the relatively greater percentage rises in property value for single family homes.
For a simple demonstration, let’s say a single 4-storey condo apartment building (on a quarter city block footprint) has 50 units. Each contributes $2000 in municipal taxes per year for a total of $100,000.00. In comparison, a single detached home with a legal suite on a 6,000 square foot lot contributes, say, $5,000 per year. How much longer are a majority (since 2007) of multi-family home owners in Port Moody, who thus consume much less services per household, willing to accept this subsidy for single detached homes?
Fortunately, our Official Community Plan (OCP) recognizes these concerns and explicitly says Port Moody should “promote energy efficient planning, design and construction, and support efforts to reduce energy consumption and promote alternate energy sources which are environmentally friendly and sustainable.” Higher density development, the Plan says, should therefore be focused in neighbourhoods like Coronation Park that are “around Evergreen Line transit stations and along transit corridors in Port Moody.”
This combination of taxpayer and environmental logic will surely help Coronation Park change in tune with the times and help us live more sustainably in the future.