News / Edmonton

Edmonton sprawl will cost $1.4 billion more than it will bring in

City study finds three new neighbourhoods will one day hold 200,000 people, but will cost taxpayers

Administration studied three future neighbourhoods on the edge of the city and found costs that would leave the city $1.4 billion in the red

Chad Steeves / For Metro

Administration studied three future neighbourhoods on the edge of the city and found costs that would leave the city $1.4 billion in the red

The city’s newest neighbourhoods won’t come close to paying for themselves and will leave taxpayers in other parts of the city on the hook for a $1.4-billion tab.

In a report going to council next week, city staff analyzed the cost of three new neighbourhoods — Decoteau and Riverview in the south and Horse Hills in the northeast — over the next 50 years, which they estimate will ultimately house 200,000 people. 

The conclusion showed that, even with developers spending $3.8 billion to build the areas, the city will have a $10.6-billion bill, spent on new infrastructure and for its maintenance and renewal.

That bill includes everything from work on commuter roads that will face added strain to bringing in three recreation centres, five fire stations, two libraries and 396 hectares of park spaces.

At the same time the city will collect just $9.2 billion in revenue, through things like taxes and levies — leaving a major shortfall.

Edmonton's chief planner, Peter Ohm, said the city’s analysis showed what they have long suspected.

He said they will now launch a discussion on how to address the problem.

“Administration has been consistent in acknowledging that these shortfalls are concerning and need to be managed,” Ohm said. “The residential nature of these neighbourhoods doesn’t generate enough tax revenue.”

The planning department is recommending the city study a number of options, including moving away from property taxes, charging developers higher levies, potentially building less expensive infrastructure and looking at changing how the city grows.

Coun. Andrew Knack said the report is helpful and it’s time the city had a serious conversation. 

“We’ve always suggested there has been quite a lot of cost to building new neighbourhoods, this put a dollar amount to it.”

Kurt Borth, a PhD candidate at the University of Alberta who studies sprawl, said the city really needs to understand the alternatives.

“The real thing would be seeing what it would cost to keep a similar amount of people in a mature neighbourhood," Borth said.

But he commended the city for gathering the data, so it can understand the problem.

“Without the data there is not much you can say or do.”