NIMBYism: Keep A Vacant Lot Across The Street, Cause “Free” Parking, and Cut My Property Taxes to Go Down

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It’s easy to mock NIMBYism for its stupidity, but how much of that stupidity is rooted in the fact that our education system fails to explain how government actually works, especially at the municipal level.

Every two weeks, I read the Hamilton Planning Committee front to back, including all the letters from neighbours about proposed developments.

Some of the letters are insightful, well reasoned, and heartening to read. Sadly, those are the minority.

The next group of letters are mildly NIMBY, basically the kind that say don’t let someone else build the same type of housing I have, near me. (My favourite are the “anti-sprawl” from people who just bought their houses at the edge of urban sprawl)

Then there are the ugly, which are the I don’t want poor people, renters, or other “undesirables”.

This blog post is based upon a couple of letters in the middle group.

The development is on a vacant lot, which used to be industrial manufacturing, in the middle of an established urban residential area. The proposal is very similar to the opposite side of the street and is, by one unit per hectare, technically less dense than the average of the neighbourhood.

The common concerns in the letter is the new homes on this vacant lot will have driveways, thereby eliminating “free” on-street parking spots in front of the property.  The letters say they want less density citing – among many things – the loss of parking.

In these same letters, they express concern about their high property taxes.

For some reason, which is in part of failure of journalism to explain our world in favour of “he said, he said” stories, the letter writers do not connect the fact the vacant lot is not generating much in the way of property taxes, and the ten new homes proposed will generate at least $20,000 per year more in taxes.

We need in-fill development. It’s the only effective means of generating more revenue for services and managing tax increases on existing properties.

This is the role of journalism, we as journalists must help people to understand the economics of municipal government better.

(While on a much larger scale, Ryan McGreal’s 2014 post about the property tax benefits of intensification in the Downtown is a great read of examples of how this works.)

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