NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"New Urbanism" a Mixed Bag for Home Buyers

January 16, 2004

Home buyers like some of the features of "New Urbanism," (also known as "Smart Growth") neighborhoods and are willing to pay more for such features, but are generally opposed to dense, multi-family housing units, one of the main characteristics of New Urban neighborhoods, according to a survey of real estate transactions by the University of Maryland.

The study, based on 48,070 real estate transactions from 1990 to 2000 in the Washington County, Ore., area (including Portland) found that:

  • The average house on a 3,500 square foot lot in a New Urban neighborhood sold for $156,986, compared with a house on a larger, suburban lot (8,675 sq. ft.), which sold for $24,255 less.
  • However, homebuyers paid less for New Urban houses located within 150 feet of major streets or within 500 feet of Portland's light rail line, due to noise concerns.

Home buyers placed a premium on such attributes as close proximity to parks, golf courses, walking and biking paths. They preferred smaller blocks and shorter dead-end streets with greater isolation from transportation hubs -- but also wanted easy access to commercial buildings and bus lines (a walking distance within one-quarter mile).

However, they were detracted by prominent New Urban features such as high density housing, too many multi-land uses -- commercial and public -- in residential areas, and too close a proximity to major transportation stations, such as light rail stations.

The research concluded what previous studies have shown -- that home buyers still prefer low-density dwellings.

Sources: John W. Freece, "Home Buyers Willing to Pay Price Premium for Certain New Urbanist Features," University of Maryland, National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education, December 11, 2003; Yang Song and Gerrit-Jan Knapp, "New Urbanism and Housing Values: A Disaggregate Assessment," Journal of Urban Economics, September, 2003.

For University of Maryland text

For Journal of Urban Economics text (subscription required)


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