Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Helping downtown saves money

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It is ironic 85 per cent of your online poll respondents, presumably including many Winnipeg taxpayers, disagree an extremely modest $10,000 incentive should be provided to people buying condos downtown (City council approves $10-K rebate for Exchange condo purchase, July 18). The irony is promoting downtown living will lessen the tax burden on all of us.

The simple fact is urban sprawl is expensive. Taxpayers must pick up the cost of infrastructure development (water, sewers, roads, bridges) and many other services (public transportation, garbage collection, snow removal, fire and police). Without such expansion, funds can be used to maintain existing infrastructure, for example, filling potholes and repairing bridges.

Indeed, many cities try to control sprawl and its tremendous costs by differential taxes that favour living in multi-family units and in central areas rather than single-family homes scattered out in the suburbs.

The ongoing benefit of lower taxes is both fair and effective. Whether a modest one-time $10,000 will work is questionable. Moreover, it fails to reward people who have previously chosen to live downtown, already saving city taxpayers much money.

The same logic applies, of course, to people living with lower taxes outside the city limits. As the province must provide much of the resulting infrastructure (e.g., to get to work in Winnipeg), Manitoba taxpayers in Winnipeg end up subsidizing residents of outlying communities.

So rather than berate the city for this seeming largesse, we should be criticizing our politicians for failing to provide stronger and fairer incentives to live downtown and save money for all Winnipeg taxpayers.

 

JIM CLARK

Winnipeg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 20, 2013 A16

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