Here's why real estate markets in some neighborhoods -- like Santa Monica, where I live -- are doing just fine: People are willing to pay more for the privilege of walking more.
How much more are people willing to pay? $4,000 to $34,000 more for above average walkability versus just average walkability. That’s what a study called Walking the Walk (PDF) found when it mashed up WalkScore numbers with home values and corrected for “hedonic regression,” a.k.a. other factors (like age, house sizes, and proximity to urban center) that might make people pay more to live in a particular ‘hood (via Grist). The study was put together by a group called CEOs for Cities, self-described as “a national network of urban leaders dedicated to building and sustaining the next generation of great American cities.”
At Grist, Katharine Wroth writes about the study: “For me, the question is: Should we have to pay more for the privilege of being able to walk to a grocery store or school or post office or local pub?” Her answer seems to be a qualified yes — that walkable neighborhoods are worth valuing, but that policies that make walkable neighborhoods more widely available should also be pursued.
For me, the question is: Does it actually COST more to live in a walkable neighborhood? Because if you move to a walkable neighborhood, you could very well be able to go happily carfree — and the savings from that could make up for the higher rent or mortgage. As Metro recently reported: “According to The American Public Transportation Association (APTA), L.A. County residents who ride public transportation can save $10,015 per year, or $835 per month by taking public transportation and living with one less car.”
With Santa Monica’s home prices crazy as they are, I’m not sure de-car-ing alone would let most of us actually become homeowners here — but I’m willing to bet many would-be beachside community residents would able to afford the rent here if they ditched their cars!
While de-car-ing in a pedestrian-friendly ‘hood can be quite pleasurable, Streetsblog points out that de-car-ing’s not so fun in the ‘burbs by linking to a bunch of blogs that point out the real social challenges to taking advantage of a car-free lifestyle if you live in a ‘hood that’s car-centric.
Curious as to how Santa Monica’s promoting walkability and — extrapolating from Walk the Walk study — pushing up property values? Well, anyone who’s driven, biked, or walked all the way down Wilshire knows that once you get into Santa Monica, pretty much every street corner has a pedestrian crosswalk painted on the road. That’s just one way “Santa Monica is controlling traffic flow by the way they design their streets,” as Streetsblog LA points out. “They slow down traffic in many places and speed it up in a few others which will encourage automobile traffic away from the more pedestrian friendly areas.”
Screenshot courtesy of WalkScore