Corridors of Green and Gold: Impact of Riparian Suburban Greenways on Property Values

Article excerpt

The open space system like housing, transportation, education and economic development, like air, water and light is a fundamental building block of modern urban life, a physical, social, economic, and human necessity, day in, day out, year after year. - New York City Open Task Force, 1987

INTRODUCTION

Community builders, land developers, environmentalists, homeowners and politicians appreciate that land-use planning and management improves with better information and better understanding of the diverse interests involved. Behind concepts of growth management, sustainable development and new urbanism is a growing commitment to better understand ecological, social and economic factors in planning and managing our landscape.

This study is intended to contribute to our understanding of the role of greenways in residential property markets, with particular reference to greenway standards applicable to fisheries management along shorelines, rivers, streams and creeks. The focus of our research is on testing the general hypothesis that proximity to a greenway will have a positive impact on nearby property values. There is a widespread belief, supported by numerous studies, that the positive features associated with a greenway outweigh the negative features, and that on balance, tenants and owners are willing to pay for such proximity. To test this hypothesis, four different sample areas have been selected in the province of British Columbia; three in the metropolitan Vancouver area and one in the metropolitan Victoria area. The economic focus of the paper is the application of multiple regression analysis to isolate the impact of greenways on property values. A survey of property owners in the four study areas was also administered f or insights about perceptions of values held by the residential owners and occupants related to their proximity to the greenways.

This study makes several important contributions to our understanding of the pricing dynamics associated with proximity to greenways. First, the empirical analysis relies on a comprehensive database that includes all sales within a sub-market, not just a sample as is the case in most other studies. As a consequence, issues associated with sample bias are overcome. Second, the database used in the study has a comprehensive set of property characteristics available for use. Finally, using current appraisal data from the provincial assessment authority provides a secondary rich database that can be used to augment the often small number of sales within an area. This is important since residential properties tend to turn over infrequently, resulting in a small number of sales. In British Columbia all residential assessment is market-based and intended to represent current values, hence these assessed values provide an independent second source of data to use as the dependent variable in the analyses.

Stepping back to define our term of reference, the term "greenway" is a relatively recent concept that may mean different things to different people. Generally, a greenway is characterized as a landscape corridor or linear open-space zone which is protected or regulated for public-interest purposes of balancing and enhancing the needs of natural systems and human experience. In its more natural form, a greenway could be a protected stream or wildlife corridor; in our cities it could be a carefully designed parkway or even a network of back alleys (Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, B.C. et al., 1995; City of Vancouver, B.C., 1995).

For the purpose of this study, the general concept of a greenway has been further defined by the following characteristics:

* the greenways are in or adjacent to suburban, residential neighbourhoods, and

* the greenways are natural or naturalized watercourse landscapes of importance to fisheries-related ecosystems with adjacent leave areas or 'no development/disturbance areas' and naturally vegetated undisturbed areas that are intended as buffers for protection of the aquatic feature and fish habitat. …