The Green Space Chase: Property Values in Arid ClimatesApr 11th, 2012 | By Bradley Crawford
Rosalind H. Bark, Daniel E. Osgood Bonnie G. Colby, and Eve B. Halper
Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics. 2011.
The authors analyze a 77 square-mile area of north-central and northeast Tucson, Arizona, using satellite data to measure the type and density of vegetation to construct “greenness maps,” which are then overlaid with area data on single-family home sales, U.S. Census statistics, and riparian corridor boundaries. The approach is by no means new: others have also measured preferences for green space by size, proximity, and quality (see, for example, Payton, et al , Bark, et al , and Hatton McDonald, et al ). But this study takes advantage of extremely high-resolution satellite data from the Pima Association of Governments. It also incorporates and distinguishes between values for constructed landscapes and native landscapes.
The findings indicate a broad preference for green space on residential properties, nearby, and in the neighborhood as a whole, reinforcing the results of earlier studies. Homebuyers paid nearly $18,000 more than the study area’s mean home value for the greenest properties and more than $12,000 above the mean to live near the greenest riparian corridor.
While the preference holds when controlling for other factors, such as home amenities, school districts, and neighborhoods, two significant exceptions to the trend of enhanced value are perhaps surprising: public parks and golf courses.
Public parks, which correlate negatively with home values, are often poorly watered and, the authors suggest, present traffic, noise, and safety issues. Homes on or adjacent to golf courses enjoy a $25,000 premium, but that bump all but disappears when the course is merely nearby: the courses are private and so likely inaccessible to non-members. In any case, it’s easy to imagine that the increased value for golf course homes stems as much from prestige and opportunity to play golf frequently as it does from the green space itself.
Nevertheless, documenting the economic value of green space adds a new dimension to discussions of urban planning and water-resource allocation in arid climates. In Tucson and Pima County, a city/county agreement permits the use of up to 10,000 acre-feet of treated wastewater annually to help rebuild riparian habitat in the area. Knowing where green space most enhances home values is an important step in reassessing the best use for that allotment.
To that point, the authors hint at riparian corridors as unsung heroes in the world of green space. Their narrow, sinuous profiles tend to touch many more properties than rectangular parks and provide ready access for running and dog walking. They also lend hope that residential developers might preserve native vegetation in desert developments in exchange for premium prices, affording some extra green for the developers as well as future residents.