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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

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Vancouver Sun

Did you know that some Canadian banks will reduce your interest rate on a mortgage by as much as one per cent if you invest in certified Energy Star appliances, windows, or heating and cooling equipment in your house? That can add up to $2,000 in your pocket. Meanwhile, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation gives qualified homeowners a 10-per-cent green refund on mortgage loan insurance premiums if you buy or build an energy-efficient home, or make energy-saving renovations to existing homes. For more information: www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca.

Which, as far as it goes, is a good idea. But it des not go nearly far enough. Why not “location efficient mortages”? Transportation is a very large chunk of most household budgets. If someone can find a home close to work for at least one household member, than the savings of not owning a car are considerable, leaving the occupants more disposable income – just like the energy savings in an energy efficient mortgage. In fact I would hazard a guess that most families spend more on transportation than they do on electricity and heating fuel.

There is also a major social benefit too. It is more likely that people who live close to work will be healthier – if they walk or cycle to work. And they make less demand on the transportation system as well.

LEMs have been around for years in the US, and most lenders will notice if you have less outgoings such as no car payments. What is missing is the CMHC who control such things as mortage ratios (housing loan to income). Since they regulate the amount that people can spend on housing, but not on transport, current policies actually promote urban sprawl. And CMHC has been well aware of this for years. It is very much like the situation with ICBC and distance based insurance. Both very good ideas, both well suited to promote TDM and reduce GHG emissions, but in both cases an unresponsive bureaucracy blocks progress and gives very unsatisfactory explanations for their inaction.

And while we are on this tack, we hear a lot about LEED buildings but not nearly enough about LEED ND. It is fine to build energy efficient homes and offices, but if their location requires long commutes any benefit is very quickly eliminated.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 25, 2008 at 8:52 am

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