Housing Density and the Effect of Proximity to Public Open Space in Aberdeen, Scotland

By Dehring, Carolyn; Dunse, Neil | Real Estate Economics, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Housing Density and the Effect of Proximity to Public Open Space in Aberdeen, Scotland


Dehring, Carolyn, Dunse, Neil, Real Estate Economics


We consider whether public recreational open space is a substitute for private open space by testing whether price effects from proximity to an urban park are increasing in housing density. Aberdeen, Scotland features three owner-occupied residential property types: detached housing, nondetached housing and flats. We examine property sales within 800 m of five city parks. We find flat prices increase with additional proximity to parks, but there are generally no price effects from park proximity for lower density housing types. The results suggest that open space policy must consider the scale and density of surrounding urban development.

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Urban parks are local public goods in that they offer a commonality of use to multiple users at one time. In the United States, urban parks are financed with local tax revenues, unlike some state parks, which charge user fees for access. (1) The provision of recreational open space through taxation is likely to be more efficient locally than that for a larger population (state and national parks). Further, while it may be that the costs of excluding nonpayers from urban parks would be prohibitively expensive, local governments provide urban parks to improve the health and welfare of residents, both rich and poor. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that local government expenditures on parks and recreation totaled $16,073 million for the fiscal year ending 1996.

Questions concerning the economic value of urban parks and open spaces have been addressed by economists using two broad methodological approaches: stated and revealed preference. The former approach relies on survey techniques to elicit individual preferences and values for environmental goods. The latter approach uses observed market choices that individuals make to reveal their underlying preferences and to estimate their values for goods and services (Freeman 1993). This latter approach enables the "price" of amenities for which markets do not exist, such as open spaces and urban parks, to be inferred from observing and analyzing the price of goods from which markets do exist, for example, housing.

Contingent valuation is an example of a stated preference technique where individuals are asked their maximum willingness to pay for an environmental good or benefit. For example, what is the maximum amount visitors would be willing to pay for accessing open spaces or urban parks for recreational and educational purposes, when the alternative is to forgo access? Breffle, Morey and Lodder (1998) adopt this approach to estimate the value of preserving open space in an urban setting in the United States. Previously, the technique has been used to estimate the value of preserving agricultural land (Halstead 1984, Beasley, Workman and Williams 1986, Kline and Wichelns 1996). Kline and Wichelns (1996), for example, find high population and property values lead to greater support for the preservation of agricultural land across U.S. regions.

Hedonic pricing models are an example of a revealed preference method. The basic concept is that a property is a heterogeneous good consisting of a bundle of characteristics, each of which contributes to the sales price of the good. Characteristics may include the environmental attributes of the bundle, such as the amount of proximate green space or urban parks in the area. U.S. studies that have focused on the value of public open spaces include Weicher and Zerbst (1973), Correll, Lillydahl and Singell (1978), Epsey and Owusu-Edusei (2001) and Irwin (2002). Weicher and Zerbst's (1973) study of neighborhood parks and residential sale prices is the first serious econometric work in the area. They find positive price effects for properties adjacent to and facing a neighborhood park, but negative price effects for adjacent properties having an obstructed view of a park. Correll, Lillydahl and Singell (1978) examine the effect of greenbelt proximity on residential property prices in Boulder, Colorado. …

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