Happy Holidays

Dave Killion — December 12, 2010

As Christmas approaches, street parking in my neighbourhood becomes increasingly difficult to find, thanks to the management at the nearby shopping centre forbidding employees to use the mall’s parking lot.  Staff naturally gravitate to the nearest free parking, and the mall enjoys a nice little benefit at the expense of my neighbours and me.  This is the time of the year when my thoughts turn to Robert Nelson.

Nelson points out that one of the biggest trends in housing worldwide has been the growth of private neighbourhoods, to the point that in the US last year, one of every two new homes purchased was in a private neighbourhood.  It is obvious that there are many people who feel living in a private neighbourhood conveys benefits they desire and enjoy, such as control over who gets to park on their streets.  Nelson further points out that the only way poorer people who live in older, publicly governed neighbourhoods can enjoy those perceived benefits is to move.  Neither he nor I think that is a satisfactory situation.

What is needed is some legal mechanism by which a community can elect to privatize itself.  Once a neighbourhood owns its streets, sidewalks, parks, and remaining infrastructure, all sorts of possibilities open up.  Unsightly boulevard trees can be replaced with new trees, park equipment can be as elaborate as locals desire, road access can be controlled to prevent vehicles from using the neighbourhood as a shortcut or parking lot, private security can patrol the area, and all the benefits of these improvements are captured by the community.  I suspect neighbourhood privatization would be of even greater benefit to poorer, older communities than they are to new developments.

Until that great day arrives, I still have the option of lobbying City Hall to declare my neighbourhood streets “Residential Parking Only”.  Then I can spend my holidays calling the City to complain about non-residents parking here.  Doesn’t sound very festive…

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