Use City Taxes to Punish Ugliness and Reward Sustainability

No, we are not competing for the most boring treehugger post ever. We are talking about The Centre for Integral Economics, a Vancouver think set up by Donna Morton and Zane Parker, who explain how municipal taxes sabotage cities' environmental goals. Now Magazine says: "You can bet you're at the edge of a sustainability breakthrough when you start finding tax policy sexy."

They point out that under most tax regimes, restoring and retrofitting, adding green roofs and energy management systems simply make property taxes higher. They say- tax land, not buildings.


"Parking lots and box store malls that currently pay less per square metre would have to cough up more, while retail strips that encourage pedestrian access and provide affordable apartments overhead could pay a much smaller share.

Homeowners who renovate their attics or basements for rental units wouldn't be taxed as much for their improvements, which increase affordable housing and make city garbage collection and utility services more cost-effective. But speculators who hold onto vacant land would pay through the nose"

This is not new- Sydney and Melbourne in Australia do it, and it has been used as a restoration technique in 15 cities in Pennsylvania. Their suggestion that it be used to promote sustainablity and energy efficiency is.

On the environmental side, they support "pay by the slice" pricing of utilities- 'Moving to pay-by-the-slice methods means metering water use, which a 1999 Environment Canada study showed resulted in 70 per cent reductions in home water use, and charging by the bag for garbage. A quick jolt of metered IQ teaches most hosers not to use water to clean their driveway and sidewalk. When individuals pay more per unit, the ornery side of human nature works for the social good."
::Centre for Integral Economics via ::Now Magazine