Garden Cities of To-morrow, by Ebenezer Howard

Chapter Four

The Revenue of Garden City — General Observations on its Expenditure

Before entering upon the question which presented itself at the conclusion of the last chapter — that of endeavouring to ascertain whether the estimated net available income of Garden City (£50,000 per annum) would be sufficient for its municipal needs, I will very shortly state how it is proposed to raise the money required for commencing operations. The money would be borrowed on ‘B’ debentures, 1 and would be secured by a charge upon the ‘rate-rent’, subject, of course, to the payment of interest and sinking fund in respect of the ‘A’ debentures on which the purchase money of the estate is raised. It is, perhaps, superfluous to remark that, though in the case of the land purchase it might be requisite to raise the whole, or at least some very considerable part of the purchase money before possession would be given of the estate, or operations upon it commenced, yet in regard to public works to be carried out upon the estate, the case is quite different, and it would be by no means necessary or advisable to defer the commencement of operations until the whole sum which might be ultimately required should be raised. Probably no town was ever built on such onerous conditions as would be involved in the raising at the outset of such a very considerable sum as would defray the cost of all its public works; and though the circumstances under which Garden City is to be built may be unique, there is, as will by and by be seen, not only no need for making an exception of the town in respect of initial capital, but quite exceptional reasons will become more and more apparent which make the overlaying of the enterprise with superabundant capital altogether unnecessary, and therefore inexpedient; although, of course, there must be a sufficient sum to enable all real economies to be readily effected.

Perhaps it may be well in this connection to draw a distinction as to the amount of capital required between the case of the building of a town and the building, let us say, of a large iron bridge across an estuary. In the case of the bridge it is highly expedient to raise the entire sum required before commencing operations, for the simple reason that the bridge is not a bridge until the last rivet is driven home, nor, until its entire completion and its connection with the railways or roadways at either end, has it any revenue-earning power. Except, therefore, on the assumption that it is to be fully completed, it offers very little security for the capital sunk upon it. Hence it would be very natural for those who are asked to invest to say, ‘We will not put any money into this enterprise until you show us that you can get enough to complete it.’ But the money which it is proposed to raise for the development of Garden City site leads to speedy results. It is to be expended upon roads, schools, etc. These works will be carried out with due regard to the number of lots which have been let to tenants, who undertake to build as from a certain date; and, therefore, the money expended will very soon begin to yield a return in the shape of a rate-rent, representing, in reality, a greatly improved ground rent; when those who have advanced money on the ‘B’ debentures will have a really first-class security, and further sums should be easily obtainable, and at a reduced rate of interest. Again, it is an important part of the project that each ward, or one-sixth part of the city, 2 should be in some sense a complete town by itself, and thus the school buildings might serve, in the earlier stages, not only as schools, but as places for religious worship, for concerts, for libraries, and for meetings of various kinds, so that all outlay on expensive municipal and other buildings might be deferred until the later stages of the enterprise. Work, too, would be practically completed in one ward before commencing on another, and the operations in the various wards would be taken up in due and proper sequence, so that those portions of the town site on which building operations were not in progress would also be a source of revenue, either as allotments, cow-pastures, or, perhaps, as brickfields.

Let us now deal with the subject immediately before us. Will the principles on which Garden City is to be built have any bearing on the effectiveness of its municipal expenditure? In other words, will a given revenue yield greater results than under ordinary conditions? These questions will be answered in the affirmative. It will be shown that, pound for pound, money will be more effectively spent than elsewhere, and that there will be many great and obvious economies which cannot be expressed in figures with much accuracy, but which would certainly represent in the aggregate a very large sum.

The first great economy to be noticed is that the item of ‘landlord’s rent’, which, under ordinary conditions, largely enters into municipal expenditure, will, in Garden City, scarcely enter at all. Thus, all well-ordered towns require administrative buildings, schools, swimming baths, libraries, parks; and the sites which these and other corporate undertakings occupy are usually purchased. In such cases the money necessary for the purchase of the sites is generally borrowed on the security of the rates; and thus it is that a very considerable part of the total rates levied by a municipality are ordinarily applied, not to productive works, but either to what we have termed ‘landlord’s rent’, in the shape of interest on money borrowed to effect the purchase, or to the provision of a sinking fund in payment of the purchase money of the land so acquired, which is landlord’s rent in a capitalized form.

Now, in Garden City, all such expenditure, with such exceptions as road sites on the agricultural estate, has been already provided for. Thus, the 250 acres for public parks, the sites for schools and other public buildings, will cost the ratepayers nothing whatever, or, to put it more correctly, their cost, which was really £40 per acre, has been covered, as we have seen, by the annual average contribution of 1s. 1d. per head, which each person is supposed to make in discharge of landlord’s rent; and the revenue of the town, £50,000, is the net revenue after all interest and sinking fund in respect of the whole site has been deducted. In considering, therefore, the question whether £50,000 is a sufficient revenue, it must be remembered that in no case has any cost of municipal sites to be first deducted from that amount.

Another item in which a great economy will be effected will be found in a comparison between Garden City and any old city like London. London wishes to breathe a fuller municipal spirit, and so proceeds to construct schools, to pull down slums, to erect libraries, swimming baths, etc. In these cases, it has not only to purchase the freeholds of the sites, but also has usually to pay for the buildings which had been previously erected thereon, and which are purchased solely, of course, with a view to their demolition and to a clearing of the ground, and frequently it has also to meet claims for business-disturbance, together with heavy legal expenses in settling claims. In this connection it may be remarked that the inclusive cost of sites of schools purchased by the London School Board since its constitution, i.e. the cost, including old buildings, business-disturbance, law charges, etc., has already reached the enormous sum of £3,516,072, 3 and the exclusive cost of the sites (370 acres in extent) ready for building by the Board is equal, on the average, to £9,500 per acre. 4

At this rate the cost of the 24 acres of school sites for Garden City would be £228,000, so that another site for a model city could be purchased out of what would be saved in Garden City in respect of school sites alone. ‘Oh, but,’ it may be said, ‘the school sites of Garden City are extravagantly large, and would be out of the question in London, and it is altogether unfair to compare a small town like Garden City with London, the wealthy capital of a mighty Empire.’ I would reply, ‘It is quite true that the cost of land in London would make such sites extravagant, not to say prohibitive — they would cost about £40,000,000 sterling — but does not this of itself suggest a most serious defect of system, and that at a most vital part? Can children be better taught where land costs £9,500 an acre than where it costs £40? Whatever may be the real economic value of the London site, for other purposes — as to which we may have something to say at a later stage — for school purposes, wherein lies the advantage that the sites on which its schools are built are frequently surrounded by dingy factories or crowded courts and alleys? If Lombard Street is an ideal place for banks, is not a park like the Central Avenue of Garden City an ideal place for schools? — and is not the welfare of our children the primary consideration with any well-ordered community?’ ‘But’, it may be said, ‘the children must be educated near their homes, and these homes must be near the places where their parents work.’ Precisely; but does not the scheme provide for this in the most effective manner, and in that respect also are not the school sites of Garden City superior to those of London? The children will have to expend less than an average amount of energy in going to school, a matter, as all educationists admit, of immense importance, especially in the winter. But further, have we not heard from Professor Marshall (see heading to Chapter Three) that ‘150,000 people, in London, engaged in the clothes-making trades, are doing work which it is against all economic reason to have done where ground rent is high’ — in other words, that these 150,000 people should not be in London at all; and does not the consideration that the education of the children of such workers is carried on at once under inferior conditions and at enormous cost add weight and significance to the Professor’s words? If these workers ought not to be in London, then their homes, for which, insanitary as they are, they pay heavy rents, ought not to be in London; a certain proportion of the shopkeepers who supply their wants should not be in London; and various other people to whom the wages earned by these persons in the clothes-making trade give employment should not be in London. Hence, there is a sense — and a very real one — in which it is fair to compare the cost of school sites in Garden City with the cost of school sites in London; because obviously if these people do, as suggested by Professor Marshall, migrate from London, they can at once effect (if they make, as I have suggested, proper provision beforehand) not only a great saving in respect of ground rent for their workshops, but also a vast saving in respect of sites for homes, schools, and other purposes; and this saving is obviously the difference between what is now paid and what would be paid under the new conditions, minus the loss incurred (if any), and plus the numerous gains secured as the result of such removal.

Let us for the sake of clearness make the comparison in another way. The people of London have paid a capital sum representing, when spread over the whole population of London (this being taken at 6,000,000), upwards of 11s. 6d. per head of population for school sites held by the London School Board, a sum which is, of course, exclusive of the sites for voluntary schools. The population of Garden City, 30,000 in number, have entirely saved that 11s. 6d. per head, making a total saving of £17,250, which at 3 per cent involves an annual saving of £517 in perpetuity. And besides thus saving £517 a year as interest on cost of sites for schools, Garden City has secured sites for its schools incomparably better than those of London schools — sites which afford ample accommodation for all the children of the town, and not, as in the case of the London School Board, accommodation for only half of the children of the municipality. (The sites of the London School Board are 370 acres in extent, or about 1 acre to every 16,000 of the population, while the people of Garden City have obtained 24 acres or 1 acre for every 1,250.) In other words, Garden City secures sites which are larger, better placed, and in every way more suitable for educational purposes, at a mere fraction of the cost which in London is incurred for sites vastly inferior in every respect.

The economies with which we have thus dealt are, it will be seen, effected by the two simple expedients we have referred to. First, by buying the land before a new value is given to it by migration, the migrating people obtain a site at an extremely low figure, and secure the coming increment for themselves and those who come after them; and secondly, by coming to a new site, they do not have to pay large sums for old buildings, for compensation for disturbance, and for heavy legal charges. The practicability of securing for the poor workers of London the first of these great advantages appears to have been for the moment overlooked by Professor Marshall in his article in the Contemporary Review5 for the Professor remarks ‘Ultimately all would gain by the migration, but most’ (the italics are my own) ’the landowners and the railroads connected with the colony.’ Let us then adopt the expedient here advocated of securing that the landowners, ’who . . . will gain most‘ by a project specially designed to benefit a class now low down in the social scale, shall be those very people themselves, as members of a new municipality, and then a strong additional inducement will be held out to them to make a change, which nothing but the lack of combined effort has hitherto prevented. As to the benefit to be derived by the railways, while no doubt the building up of the town would specially benefit the main line of railway which passed through the estate, it is also true that the earnings of the people would not be diminished to the usual extent by railway freights and charges. (See Chapter Two, also Chapter Five, p. 84.)

We now come to deal with an element of economy which will be simply incalculable. This is to be found in the fact that the town is definitely planned, so that the whole question of municipal administration may be dealt with by one far-reaching scheme. It is not by any means necessary, and it is not, humanly speaking, possible, that the final scheme should be the work of one mind. It will no doubt be the work of many minds — the minds of engineers, of architects and surveyors, of landscape gardeners and electricians. But it is essential, as we have said, that there should be unity of design and purpose — that the town should be planned as a whole, and not left to grow up in a chaotic manner as has been the case with all English towns, and more or less so with the towns of all countries. A town, like a flower, or a tree, or an animal, should, at each stage of its growth, possess unity, symmetry, completeness, and the effect of growth should never be to destroy that unity, but to give it greater purpose, nor to mar that symmetry, but to make it more symmetrical; while the completeness of the early structure should be merged in the yet greater completeness of the later development. 6

Garden City is not only planned, but it is planned with a view to the very latest of modern requirements, 7 and it is obviously always easier, and usually far more economical and completely satisfactory, to make out of fresh material a new instrument than to patch up and alter an old one. This element of economy will be perhaps best dealt with by a concrete illustration, and one of a very striking nature at once presents itself.

In London the question of building a new street between Holborn and the Strand has been for many years under consideration, and at length a scheme is being carried out, imposing an enormous cost on the people of London. ‘Every such change in the street geography of London displaces thousands of the poor’ — I quote from the Daily Chronicle of 6th July 1898 — ‘and for many years all public or quasi-public schemes have been charged with the liability to rehouse as many of them as possible. This is as it should be; but the difficulty begins when the public is asked to face the music and pay the bill. In the present case some three thousand souls of the working population have to be turned out. After some searching of heart, it is decided that most of them are so closely tied to the spot by their employment that it would be a hardship to send them more than a mile away. The result, in cash, is that London must spend in rehousing them about £100 a head — or £300,000 in all. As to those who cannot fairly be asked to go even a mile away — hangers-on to the market, or others tethered to the spot — the cost will be even higher. They will require to have parcels of the precious land cleared by the great scheme itself, and the result of that will be to house them at the handsome figure of £260 apiece, or some £1,400 for every family of five or six. Financial statements convey little to the ordinary mind. Let us make it a little more intelligible. A sum of £1,400 means, in the house market, a rental of nearly £100 a year. It would buy an excellent in fact a sumptuous, house and garden at Hampstead, such as the better middle-class delight in. It would purchase anywhere in the nearer suburbs such houses as men with £1,000 a year inhabit. If one went further afield, to the new neighbourhoods which the City clerk can easily reach by rail, a £1,400 house represents actual magnificence.’ But on what scale of comfort will the poor Covent Garden labourer with a wife and four children live? The £1,400 will by no means represent a fair standard of comfort, to say nothing of magnificence. ‘He will live in three rooms sufficiently small in a block at least three storeys high.’ Contrast this with what might be done on a new area, by carefully planning a bold scheme at the outset. Streets of greater width than this new street would be laid out and constructed at a mere fraction of the cost, while a sum of £1,400, instead of providing one family with ‘three rooms sufficiently small in blocks at least three storeys high’, would provide seven families in Garden City with a comfortable six-roomed cottage each, and with a nice little garden; and, manufacturers being concurrently induced to build on the sites set apart for them, each breadwinner would be placed within easy walking distance of his work.

There is another modern need which all towns and cities should be designed to meet — a need which has arisen with the evolution of modern sanitation, and which has of recent years been accentuated by the rapid growth of invention. Subways for sewerage and surface drainage, for water, gas, telegraph and telephone wires, electric lighting wires, wires for conveying motive power, pneumatic tubes for postal purposes, have come to be regarded as economic if not essential. But if they would be a source of economy in an old city, how much more so in new ones; for on a clean sheet it will be easy to use the very best appliances for their construction, and to avail ourselves to the fullest extent of the ever-growing advantages which they possess as the number of services which they accommodate increases. Before the subways can be constructed, trenches somewhat wide and deep must be excavated. In making these the most approved excavating machinery could be employed. In old towns this might be very objectionable, if not, indeed, quite impossible. But here, in Garden City, the steam navvy would not make its appearance in the parts where people were living, but where they were coming to live after its work in preparing the way had been completed. What a grand thing it would be if the people of England could, by an actual illustration under their very eyes, be convinced that machinery can be so used as to confer not only an ultimate national benefit, but a direct and immediate advantage, and that not only upon those who actually own it or use it, but on others who are given work by its magic aid. What a happy day it would be for the people of this country, and of all countries, if they could learn, from practical experience, that machinery can be used on an extended scale to give employment as well as to take it away — to implace labour as well as to displace it — to free men as well as to enslave them. There will be plenty of work to be done in Garden City. That is obvious. It is also obvious that, until a large number of houses and factories are built, many of these things cannot be done, and that the faster the trenches are dug, the subways finished, the factories and the houses built, and the light and the power turned on, the sooner can this town, the home of an industrious and a happy people, be built, and the sooner can others start the work of building other towns, not like it, but gradually becoming as much superior to it as our present locomotives are to the first crude attempts of the pioneers of mechanical traction.

We have now shown four cogent reasons why a given revenue should, in Garden City, yield vastly greater results than under ordinary conditions.

(1) That no ‘landlord’s rent’ or interest in respect of freeholds would be payable other than the small amount which has been already provided for in estimating net revenue.

(2) That the site being practically clear of buildings and other works, but little expenditure would be incurred in the purchase of such buildings, or compensation for business-disturbance, or legal and other expenses in connection therewith.

(3) The economy arising out of a definite plan, and one in accordance with modern needs and requirements, thus saving those items of expenditure which are incurred in old cities as it is sought to bring them into harmony with modern ideas.

(4) The possibility, as the whole site will he clear for operations, of introducing machinery of the very best and most modern type in road-making and other engineering operations.

There are other economies which will become apparent to the reader as he proceeds, but, having cleared the ground by discussing general principles, we shall be better prepared to discuss the question as to the sufficiency of our estimates in another chapter.

1 See note on page 50.

2 See Diagram 3.

3 See Report, London School Board, 6th May 1897, p. 1,480.

4 ‘It is a great pity that the old suggestion of attaching, wherever possible, half an acre or so of land to each public elementary school in the country has never been carried out. School gardens might be made the means of giving the young an insight into horticulture, the effect of which they would find pleasant and profitable in after life. The physiology and relative value of food is a much more useful branch of school instruction than many a branch upon which the young have wasted years of their time, and the school garden would be the most valuable of object lessons.’ The Echo, Nov. 1890.

5 No one is, of course, better aware of this possibility than the Professor himself. (See Principles of Economics, 2nd ed., Bk. V, Chaps. X and XIII.)

6 It is commonly thought that the cities of the United States are planned. This is only true in a most inadequate sense. American towns certainly do not consist of intricate mazes of streets, the lines of which would appear to have been sketched out by cows: and a few days’ residence in any American city except a few of the oldest, will ordinarily enable one to find his way about it; but there is, notwithstanding, little real design, and that of the crudest character. Certain streets are laid out, and as the city grows, these are extended and repeated in rarely broken monotony. Washington is a magnificent exception as to the laying out of its streets; but even this city is not designed with a view of securing to its people ready access to nature, while its parks are not central, nor are its schools and other buildings arranged in a scientific manner.

7 ‘London has grown up in a chaotic manner, without any unity of design, and at the chance discretion of any persons who were fortunate enough to own land as it came into demand at successive periods for building operations. Sometimes a great landlord laid out a quarter in a manner to tempt the better class of residents by squares, gardens, or retired streets, often cut off from through traffic by gates and bars; but even in these cases London as a whole has not been thought of, and no main arteries have been provided for. In other and more frequent cases of small landowners, the only design of builders has been to crowd upon the land as many streets and houses as possible, regardless of anything around them, and without open spaces or wide approaches. A careful examination of a map of London shows how absolutely wanting in any kind of plan has been its growth, and how little the convenience and wants of the whole population or the considerations of dignity and beauty have been consulted.’ Right Hon. G. J. Shaw-Lefevre, New Review, 1891, p. 435.

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