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Ryerson sets up new urban economic analysis centre

According to David Amborski, Toronto could stand to look a little more closely at what it's doing.

"One of the things that often seems to be missing is economic analysis of urban policies."

Amborski, a professor at Ryerson's School of Urban and Regional Planning, is heading up a new research operation, the Centre for Urban Research and Land Development (CURLD), at Ryerson whose mission it is to tease out the economic implications of the decisions being made at Queen's Park and City Hall, with the hope that their papers will not only contribute to the general debate, but will occasionally land on the desk of some decision-making desks.

The centre is part of the Faculty of Community Services.

"One example I often point out: When the Greenbelt was put in place, they figured it wouldn't have an effect on property prices," Amborski says. "But as every economist knows, you can't effect supply without also affecting price. It’s not that we would have changed the Greenbelt policy but we could have done some things to mitigate the price impacts."

A more recent example was the talks a few years ago about dramatically increasing development charges. At the time, Amborski says, though it would have worked and improved revenue for projects in the downtown core, it would have seriously hampered development along current and future transit lines as described by Mayor Miller's Transit City plan.

The plan is for the centre to conduct seminars, hold public debates, and put out calls for proposals to do work related to various topics of compelling interest.

"We're looking to be part of the city-building initiative," Amborski says, "part of that base that provides information for decision making."

Though they’re still getting settled in at Ryerson and don't have any official areas of focus yet, Amborski did say that one likely area of study would be how to get the most out of Section 37, the regulation that ensures money flows from developers into areas of communal interest, such as park-making and public art.

"Some of the issues involve the way it's determined, who negotiates it," Amborski says. "Ward councillors have a major hand in it now. Can there be a more transparent approach? Can we be sure the money collected is being used in the best interests of the community involved?"

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: David Amborski
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