how calculate cost per home of road paving in private community
November 28, 2018 3:53 PM   Subscribe

I live in community with about 60 houses, there are main roads and artery roads and capillary roads (to borrow an analogy). We need to pave the roads and am looking for a simple way to calculate the $ contribution of each household.

Obviously some houses live close to the main road (ie. don't use a lot of roadway) and there are houses that live at the extremity of a capillary road. There is a part of the road-to-be-paved that is used by all households and there are capillary roads only used by households on those roads.

I am thinking of factoring in the number of cars per household and meters of road that they traverse.

ie. house with 2 cars will pay 2x more than a house with 1 car, household with two cars that use 200 meters of road will be 50% less than house with two cars that uses 400m of road.

Any hiveminds brighter than mine can propose the magic formula?
posted by lapsang to Work & Money (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's a community, so it's in everyone's interest that all the roads are well-maintained. So I think it's total cost equally divided, by 60 households.
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:05 PM on November 28, 2018 [34 favorites]

Is there a specific reason why you are factoring in the meters of road traversed? If I were a homeowner with a private road, I would expect the road maintenance cost to be shared equally across all homeowners, since all will access the private road.
posted by seesom at 4:06 PM on November 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

No. Split equally 60 ways. This isn’t a restaurant check, this is a public UTILITY.
posted by jbenben at 4:10 PM on November 28, 2018 [19 favorites]

Response by poster: to illustrate with an example, my family lives on a 'capillary' road and the only people who ever use this road are our immediate neighbours. Nobody ever ever uses this road. And I'm quite sure they won't be willing to pave our road, that they never use. I hope this clarifies (and thank you for your answers so far).
posted by lapsang at 4:10 PM on November 28, 2018

Split equally is the only way to go except where there are:
(a) any through roads.
(b) access to e.g. commercial forestry*.
(c) on onsite industrial (i.e. non-residential) user with high traffic volumes.
(d) ongoing subdivision development.

\? By capilliary do you cul-de-sac / dead-end?

* I lived somewhere where trees are felled and removed on a thirty-year cycle - so roads with 20 cars a day suddenly get 50 semi-trailers a day. Often there's no agreement and the community picks up the cost (I think they call this the trickle down effect).
posted by unearthed at 4:20 PM on November 28, 2018

Ostensibly service vehicles come into the neighborhood to make deliveries and repairs. It’s in everyone’s best interest that the road network is maintained.

Anything but equal shares seems ludicrous. The only other way to do it would be to prorate based on assessed home value.
posted by hwyengr at 4:20 PM on November 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Counting cars and attempting to estimate usage is inviting trouble and argument. Remember that vehicles go to houses as well as from them (visitors, mail, deliveries, tradespeople). It seems to me that attempting to come up with a formula that accounts for how many times a given household orders pizza over the lifetime of a roadway isn't a good use of your time.

If you really want finer granularity:

Everyone divides the cost for the main/artery roads equally. Houses on a capillary divide the cost for that road equally.
posted by zamboni at 4:21 PM on November 28, 2018 [23 favorites]

I would add up all the miles involved, and use that to get the quote.

I would then map the roads in something like yellow roads- all residents use
Green roads- a portion of residents use
Red roads- only one resident

I would weight out the roads. Yellow roads would be most heavily used therefore would be 3x cost for length of road / number of people Single use roads would pay 1x for length of road and only user would pay it.
posted by Ftsqg at 4:24 PM on November 28, 2018

Figure out what percent of roadways are main roads and what percent are capillaries. Everyone pays 1/60 of main road percent, people who live on capillaries split the capillary percent equally.
posted by Weeping_angel at 4:33 PM on November 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

So this community *only* consists of these 60 residences? There are no businesses? Each of these residences is a single-family house? (There is no public transit, I take it?) The cost of initial paving and then maintenance is Not Cheap, as I'm sure you're discovering; the real question is, can your 60 residences even afford to pave all of the roads? Or are you going to have to start splitting the costs up over time as well - prioritizing by road usage (main road first because everyone uses it; it's the only way out?)

I mean, if your community is NIMBY-ish enough that they do not see "all roads paved" as a community good, then I'm going to suggest you not only consider who has a vehicle, but the weight of that vehicle. The heavier a vehicle is, it does exponentially more damage to a road surface, requiiring repair sooner. If any of your neighbors own, say, a Chevy Tahoe, they're inflicting almost 4x as much damage on a road as the average car, and 11x as much as a Prius!

But if your community is NIMBY-ish enough to be that nitpicky about cost splitting, then your community has bigger problems.

(Sidenote: in the US, at least, there's a common hierarchy of types of roads that may aid your research in how to share costs fairly. What you're calling a "main" road is actually referred to as an "arterial." Your "artery" is a "collector" street, and your "capillary" is a "local" street.)

(On preview, I think zamboni's got the best compromise.)
posted by Pandora Kouti at 4:35 PM on November 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Are there other shared costs? If so, get prepared for preportions of those costs to be litigated all to hell going forward. Also, might as well start shopping for legal consul right now since there is zero chance everyone agrees on the preportions.

I work with a guy who has turned “fighting with neighbors about everything” into a life long mission. He current issue (something to do with his remodel not fitting into the “culture” of his lakeside neighborhood) has gone on for twelve years. He doesn’t even live in the house anymore, he lives in SF. However, he’s going to fight this to the end.

Just split it 60 ways. Don’t risk that one of the 59 other households has a dude like my coworker.
posted by sideshow at 4:36 PM on November 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Your update doesn’t matter. It’s a Utility. Unless you have a gate blocking everyone else from entering your street, the idea that measuring road use is relevant here is not reasonable.

If you only want to pay for your capillary road, get a gate. Never ever drive on any other capillary road EVER. Those other capillary roads are lava to you. Not to go to a neighbor’s house, a garage sale in your community, to check out some new landscaping, take a short cut, etc.. You may not EVER drive on any other capillary road ever ever again.


If that seems unreasonable to you, split it 60 ways and feel blessed you own property in a community that can come together and share utility upgrade costs together.
posted by jbenben at 4:36 PM on November 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Does the ‘need to pave’ come from the residents? Otherwise Why would you want to pave your own road? If there is an external mandate and ‘we’ means all residents then an equal split seems the fair way to apportion costs.
posted by TDIpod at 4:37 PM on November 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

sideshow makes a really good point about this opening the door for every little thing to be litigated and argued about if the community proceeds in a weighted formula type split, this was definitely my concern when I tried to demonstrate that the road is a shared utility and needs to be equal cost.

I guess the idea of a base fee plus weighted for capillaries works? But it starts down that road of turning every future financial move into a nit picky argument.
posted by jbenben at 4:42 PM on November 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: quick answers:

- the capillary roads are dead end cul-de-sacs
- there is paltry traffic by delivery etc not even mail; 95% of all traffic is household vehicles

You've scared the bejaysus out of me with the idea of litigious, cantankerous, nit picking folks delaying and complicating and ultimately creating hostilities within the community.

My plan is to propose the formula approach, paint a picture of how complicated it can get and let the community arrive at their own conclusion of an even split.

Thanks for the common sense hivemind. Keep the comments rolling if there is something substantive to add.
posted by lapsang at 4:51 PM on November 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

I live on a road similar to this. I think what it's going to come down to is - do you have the actual power to enforce whatever you come up with? Some type of HOA, that sort of thing? If you don't, I don't believe there is any solution that is guaranteed to work.

With that said, one new option off the top of my head:

Segment the roads. It's a bit hard to explain, but draw a line at every house or capillary road. Basically, everywhere where the number of people who live beyond the line is different than the number of people that live in front of it. So there will be one line at the first house, one line at each subsequent house, one line at the capillary road entrances, one line at each house on a capillary road. Put a number in each segment for the number of houses who use it - 60 in the first segment, 59 in the second, if it then splits into a capillary with 5 houses on it that gets 5 and the main road gets 54, etc. Add up all those numbers - call that "road segments". Then, for each house, add up the number of road segments they cross in order to get to their house. Each house pays "house segments / road segments" of the cost. I haven't sat down and planned this out, but I think that's the best way to get people to pay for the cost of the road they use and not the cost that they don't. So if you imagine a road with no capillary roads and 60 houses, you would have segments numbered 60 down to 1, which is a total of about 1800 road segments. The person in the first house would pay 1/1800 of the cost (.05%), the person in house 60 would pay 60/1800 (3.33%). Everyone else would be somewhere in between.

I would avoid complicating this with number of cars, road length, etc. The only possible complication I'd add is a minimum cost - even the 1st house should pay more than that super tiny amount, because there's some cost to getting the paver people out there. That will also lessen the burden on others. The more you can make this fixed cost the more likely it is to work - the people at the end will feel like they are getting a bit of a deal because they are paying less than their 'fair share', but the people at the front will feel like they're getting a deal because they pay less in absolute terms.

If more explanation would help let me know.

Good luck!
posted by true at 4:57 PM on November 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

Is this a one-off contribution or an on-going maintenance charge? Because a one-off fee based on number of cars is just going to invite argument, as household A has two cars but is selling one and wants to be charged for one car; household B is buying a second car next week but wants to be charged for one car; household C has one car and a campervan but they only use it twice a year; household D has 3 cars but they really only use two on a regular basis, and so on.

As an on-going maintenance thing a small extra charge per vehicle seems fair (fully twice as much for two vehicles seems harsh to me), with maybe additional for anything 'oversize' (vans, huge cars, trailers).

Personally I think splitting things evenly is the easiest and most community spirited way to go, with splitting capillaries between residents and the arterial between everyone the second best option.
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:58 PM on November 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Do you have an HOA, whose funds will be used for the roads? Do your covenants allow for unequal assessments to fund repairs to common property? Do you not already have the funds in a bank account, collected from prior assessments?

I'm skeptical there's a clear path towards unequal contributions that will abide by your covenants and state law. That said, I'm impressed that you're trying.
posted by deadweightloss at 5:00 PM on November 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if you do want to include road length in my answer I don't think it would be that hard - you multiply each segment by the length of the segment before you add them in the 'road segments' calculation and multiply the 'house segments' by the total length from the front of the road for each person. Math should remain the same, I think.
posted by true at 5:01 PM on November 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

To asses by the distance used is just plain ridiculous. The only fair way is the total divided by the number of lots. I sure hope the HOA has some members on the board that will weigh in on this. I live in a 140 lot development. The roadway in total is about 4 miles. We share in road repair/upkeep equally. Anything else is not easy to levy or explain. Keep it simple and fair.
posted by JayRwv at 5:07 PM on November 28, 2018

I don't know if you'd count this as substantive, but the 'for the good of the community as a whole' idea is not about road usage. If one homeowner in a community bears the entire cost of maintaining the access road to their home, that becomes a factor in the home's eventual sale price. A lower sale price, to compensate for that ongoing expense, brings down the asking price of neighboring homes in the community. And even if a homeowner on a capillary road isn't listing their own home, the condition of all roads in the neighborhood are of interest to any prospective buyers.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:08 PM on November 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

I live in a similar-size community (56 homes) and we own our own roads. I've also served on the HOA board, and have been involved in road-repair projects.

We have never done a complete re-pave (to my knowledge); we have our service provider out every year or two to assess and identify sections that need to be repaired or replaced. We also sealcoat occasionally, as recommended by the contractor.

The HOA just saves up part of the dues, and we do as much of the road repair as we can afford, when we can afford it. (Asphalt prices vary widely, so sometimes you can afford to do much more this year than you could afford last year.)

We don't do any sort of road/mile assessment or try to charge anyone a different price. That would be a disaster in our neighborhood, where most people don't care (beyond grumbling at the $750 annual HOA fee), but a couple people are positively itching to take the Board to court, because there's a loser-pays clause in our HOA rules.
posted by spacewrench at 5:21 PM on November 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

I would also talk to the community about budgeting for ongoing road repair. If at all possible, set funds aside; it's hard to deal with great big expenses.
posted by theora55 at 5:40 PM on November 28, 2018

Thanks for the update! I hope everything goes according to your plans!!

My only three other thoughts are:

- Access for emergency vehicles. We just had significant fires in California (again) and access for emergency vehicles was important to help save lives and homes. This could prove critical for your entire community during an emergency of that type. Not just fires, but flooding and medical emergencies are also of concern. Good roads help keep your community safe.

- Paved roads increases the home values in your community.

- Paved roads decreases wear and tear on everyone’s personal vehicles.
posted by jbenben at 7:12 PM on November 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

I live in a rural community where some roads are paved and some aren't. In the unpaved areas, the council is now imposing a $10k fee per household on that road for a new paving project, and the community is bitterly torn up about it. Everyone agrees the roads should be paved, but it's bringing up some really ugly arguments around class, money and council debt.

This is obviously different, since our roads are publicly owned, but I wouldn't want to propose a division of costs that could bring this kind of conflict to my neighbourhood.
posted by third word on a random page at 8:09 PM on November 28, 2018

As a resident of a traffic-choked city whose transit funding gets litigated to death in the state house while enormous road projects for the sparsely populated interior pass no problem, my first instinct is "oh hell no I am not subsiding other people's choice to live in sprawl".

But yeah, these are neighbors / your resale values all hinge on one another's / etc, and people who don't live as deep in the dead end roads can still be pleased that they have less driving to do / less road that needs clearing between them and accessing the world.

I might still be tempted to go with your original plan, but there's probably a reason my partner is on the co-op board and not me.
posted by batter_my_heart at 8:26 PM on November 28, 2018

When we attempted this in my community, the equal split idea was shot down immediately by the people who live closest to the main road. The second choice was to base the suggested contribution on the distance from the entrance (the line where the arterial road changes from county-maintained to private) to each resident's driveway: total cost of project * (my distance / sum of all distances). The people who would pay more didn't feel that was fair, either. Then there was the issue of vacant lots -- should the owners of empty land have to pay for roads, too? If they don't pay now, there's no way to force them to pay if/when they eventually build. And what about the couple of houses right by the main road who had already paved their own sections?

The whole exercise was moot, though, since any equitable division of cost would be more than most of the residents could afford.

Fortunately, I included the cost of paving our section of road in the house-building budget, and a couple of neighbors have contributed to my efforts to repair and maintain a particularly challenging hill.
posted by bradf at 8:26 PM on November 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

As a parallel… apartment buildings I've lived in (in the UK) share service charge costs equally. Live on the ground floor? You pay the same equal share of the elevator maintenance, roof repair and stairwell redecoration as everyone else, even though you don't directly need them. Don't have a car? You pay the same equal share of the car park repair and resurfacing even though you didn't wear it out. Don't have a TV? You pay the same equal share of the communal TV system upgrade.
posted by fabius at 12:52 AM on November 29, 2018

Did everyone get to buy their lot based on the idea that the closer you were to the guardhouse the cheaper it would be to pay for the roads?

Are you going to raise people's assessments if they buy another car? How about bicycles? What if they walk a lot?

What about if they sell all their cars, does their assessment go to zero?

The only reasonable solution is an equal split, or a split based on the value of the property (because that's historically how property taxes have been assessed and people won't see it as ridiculously unfair).
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 6:23 PM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

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