Particular business

There is no easy answer to the question of living in an urban area versus choosing suburbia. An economist perhaps can spell out the particular difficulties in choosing suburbia.

In an effort to minimize the true costs of living in an urban environment, numbers have opted for suburbia. Is that a prudent choice?

Without doubt, one will find that house prices are less expensive outside of big cities.

The Toronto Real Estate Board has stated the spread between city homes and those in suburbia is approximately $250,000. For several reasons the gap disappears when all the factors are taken into consideration.

However, no economist can qualify the emotional element.

There are transportation costs, the need to purchase a vehicle and all that entails, compared to say a monthly pass of about $40 on public transit. The expense of a car, operating charges and insurance in comparison to public transit are vastly more expensive in the suburbs.

In suburbs home purchase price, its upkeep, and interest changes versus renting an accommodation in the city weigh heavily against suburbia (one can more easily rent accommodation in a city than in the suburbs).

An economist also cannot quantify the cost of a commuter’s time going to and from work in a city, or the pleasure one may derive in a more rural area in contrast to life on a more densely populated location.

For those conscious of the environment there is the real toll of urban sprawl. For municipalities, there are the increased structural costs and their upkeep compared to more high-density development that are passed on to taxpayers.

Many are beginning to look at the hidden cost, economically and socially, of urban sprawl. Residential development in the suburbs requires a new roads, new schools, the charges for snow removal and garbage pickup. Clearly, high density growth is more efficient economically.

So much depends on individual preferences that no economist can determine specifically the true costs of urban or suburban living. One may deplore the effects of high-density building, the plethora of high–rise condos.

The remedies clearly are for better planning. Chicago, for instance, should serve as an illustration of that. Changes should be forthcoming that will help the population to take the right decisions, the most appropriate place to live.

It should be noted that for the first time population growth in cities is outstripping that in the suburbs.


Bruce Whitestone