Garden Cities of To-morrow, by Ebenezer Howard

Chapter Three

The Revenue of Garden City — Town Estate

‘Whatever reforms be introduced into the dwellings of the London poor, it will still remain true that the whole area of London is insufficient to supply its population with fresh air and the free space that is wanted for wholesome recreation. A remedy for the overcrowding of London will still be wanted. . . . There are large classes of the population of London whose removal into the country would be in the long run economically advantageous; it would benefit alike those who moved and those who remained behind. . . . Of the 150,000 or more hired workers in the clothes-making trades, by far the greater part are very poorly paid, and do work which it is against all economic reason to have done where ground-rent is high.’
PROFESSOR MARSHALL, ‘The Housing of the London Poor’, Contemporary Review, 1884.

Having in the last chapter estimated the gross revenue which may be anticipated from the agricultural part of the estate at £9,750, we will now turn to the town estate (where, obviously, the conversion of an agricultural area into a town will be attended with a very large rise in land values), and endeavour roughly to estimate — again taking care to keep well within the mark — the amount of ‘rate-rent’ which will be freely offered by the tenants of the town estate.

The site of the town proper consists, it will be remembered, of 1,000 acres, and is assumed to have cost £40,000, the interest of which, at 4 per cent, is £1,600 per annum. This sum of £1,600 is, therefore, all the landlord’s rent which the people of the town. site will be called upon to pay, any additional ‘rate-rent’ they may contribute being devoted either to the payment of the purchase-money as ‘sinking-fund’, or applied as ‘rates’ to the construction and maintenance of roads, schools, water-works, and to other municipal purposes. It will be interesting, therefore, to see what sort of a burden ‘landlord’s rent’ will represent per head, and what the community would secure by such contribution. Now, if the sum of £1,600, being the annual interest or ‘landlord’s rent’, be divided by 30,000 (the supposed population of the town), it will be found to equal an annual contribution by each man, woman, and child of rather less than 1s. 1d. per head. This is all the ‘landlord’s rent’ which will ever be levied, any additional sum collected as ‘rate-rent’ being applied to sinking-fund or to local purposes.

And now let us notice what this fortunately placed community obtains for this insignificant sum. It obtains for 1s. 1 d. per head per annum, first, ample sites for homes, these averaging, as we have seen, 20 feet by 130 feet, and accommodating, on an average, 5½ persons to each lot. It obtains ample space for roads, some of which are of truly magnificent proportions, so wide and spacious that sunlight and air may freely circulate, and in which trees, shrubs, and grass give to the town a semi-rural appearance. It also obtains ample sites for town hall, public library, museum and picture gallery, theatre, concert hall, hospital, schools, churches, swimming baths, public markets, etc. It also secures a central park of 145 acres, and a magnificent avenue 420 feet wide, extending in a circle of over three miles, unbroken save by spacious boulevards and by schools and churches, which, one may be sure, will not be the less beautiful because so little money has been expended on their sites. It secures also all the land required for a railway 41 miles long, encompassing the town; 82 acres for warehouses, factories, markets, and a splendid site for a Crystal Palace devoted to shopping, and serving also as a winter garden.

The leases under which all building sites are let do not, therefore, contain the usual covenant by the tenant to pay all rates, taxes, and assessments levied in respect of such property, but, on the contrary, contain a covenant by the landlord to apply the whole sum received, first, in payment of debenture interest; secondly, towards the redemption of the debentures; and thirdly, as to the whole of the balance, into a public fund, to be applied to public purposes, among these being the rates levied by public authorities, other than the municipal authority, of the city.

Let us now attempt to estimate the rate-rents which may be anticipated in respect of our town-estate.

First, we will deal with the home-building lots. All are excellently situated, but those fronting Grand Avenue (420 feet) and 67 the magnificent boulevards (120 feet) would probably call forth the highest tenders. We can here deal only with averages, but we think anyone would admit that an average rate-rent of 6s. a foot frontage for home lots would be extremely moderate. This would make the rate-rent of a building lot 20 feet wide in an average position £6 a year, and on this basis the 5,500 building lots would yield a gross revenue of £33,000.

The rate-rents from the sites of factories, warehouses, markets, etc., cannot perhaps be so well estimated by the foot frontage, but we may perhaps safely assume that an average employer would willingly pay £2 in respect of each employee. It is, of course, not suggested that the rate-rent levied should be a poll-tax; it would, as has been said, be raised by competition among the tenants; but this way of estimating rate-rent to be paid will perhaps give a ready means by which manufacturers or other employers, co-operative societies, or individuals working on their own account, would be able to judge whether they would be lightly rated and rented as compared with their present position. It must be, however, distinctly borne in mind that we are dealing with averages; and if the figure should seem high to a large employer, it will seem ridiculously low to a small shopkeeper.

Now, in a town with a population of 30,000, there would be about twenty thousand persons between the ages of 16 and 65; and if it is assumed that 10,625 of these would be employed in factories, shops, warehouses, markets, etc., or in any way which involved the use of a site, other than a home-building site, to be leased from the municipality, there would be a revenue from this source of £21,250.

The gross revenue of the entire estate would therefore be:

Rate-rent from agricultural estate (see p. 64) £9,750
Rate-rent from 5,500 home building lots at £6 per lot 33,000
Rate-rent from business premises, 10,625 persons employed at an average of £2 a head  21,250
  £64,000

Or £2 per head of population for rates and rent.

This sum would be available as follows:

For landlord’s rent or interest on purchase money £240,000 at 4 per cent £9,600
For sinking fund (thirty years) 4,400
For such purposes as are elsewhere defrayed out of rates  50,000

£64,000

It is now important to inquire whether £50,000 will suffice for the municipal needs of Garden City.

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:42