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How Does Green Infrastructure Benefit Uk Housing Values?

By Expert Author: Kelly Leary

How are housing values affected by green infrastructure?

While widely known as a social good, green infrastructure is also studied for its impact on property values. The green news is good.

It may seem that with the pressing shortage of housing in the UK, there should be flat upon flat being constructed all over the country, in urban centres as well as on and beyond the greenbelts.

But while that may have been the approach in the Post-War period, we live in a more evolved and enlightened era. Urban planning has developed as a science that takes into account many factors before launching into building schemes, those factors including transportation management, how infrastructure can and cannot support population increases and density, as well as how new development can impact the local and global environment.

These are matters of significance to communities, to be certain. But the greater sensitivity to environmental considerations ultimately guide the work of those involved in UK land investment and development. Sustainable architecture and design require a different initial perspective, sometimes incurring larger costs up front that achieve a return on investment a few years later.

In particular, the devastating floods of 2000 and the spectre of climate change now drive greater attention to the effects of built environments on the natural landscape and weather phenomena, and vice versa. And, these events informed a report from Forest Research made to the Departments for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Communities and Local Government (DCLG). It was titled “Benefits of Green Infrastructure” and released in October 2010. The extensive study undertaken in this report (196 pages) covers the benefits of green infrastructure in several respects: the economy, social impacts, the environment, ecological dynamics, land regeneration and hydrological effects.

As one might expect, it delivers a positive position on what a conscious approach to development can mean. This includes the use of plants and topography (i.e., how rain water is managed) to mitigate pollution and flooding and to encourage physical activity and social connections. But what’s striking is that home values are also impacted.

For example, it may be intuitive that homes bordering on green spaces (including official greenbelt lands) tend to be priced higher. After all, homes and cottages that border golf courses naturally have greater value on a per-square-foot basis than those a few miles away. But the DEFRA/DCLG report identified how developing and improving properties that are adjacent to green space yields higher returns on the real estate market. “Green areas have a better image and attract more visitors, bring with them retail and leisure spending and provide job and rental opportunities. This in turn increases land and property values,” cites the report, which borrows directly from a study titled, “The Economic Value of Green Infrastructure” (Natural Economy Northwest, 2008).

To come upon this conclusion, researchers use the hedonic price method, which computes economic values for ecosystem or environmental services as they directly impact market prices. The hedonic pricing model is used by urban planners, strategic land partnerships and others when proximity to open space is clear, as well as when data on real estate transactions are available. In other words, it is based on real experiences in establishing home values.

How much can this value be increased with the presence of private and public parks? Here are two key findings of multiple studies in the DEFRA/CLG report:

A view of a natural landscape adds up to 18 per cent value to a home’s property value in North West England.

A view of broadleaf woods in peri-urban settings increases a home’s value on average across the UK by £7,680.

Business activity can also be generated with green infrastructure. A project in the Mersey Forest, a network of woodlands and green spaces across North Cheshire and Merseyside, involved new tree planting (8.9 million trees planted thus far), woodland management, human access to green spaces and recreational facilities, habitat improvement and land reclamation encompassing more than 500 square miles of land. Of note, this was done by engaging local communities and businesses heavily in the process. The programme was hedonically studied and found to have directly increased economic output by £2.8 million in gross value added in tourism spend, jobs related to products from the land and in health improvements.

The relationship between green infrastructure and health, as studied at the Mersey Forest, come from increased physical activity and a removal from built, urban environments that are characterised by concrete and a lack of growing plants and wildlife.

Green infrastructure often also includes a conscious and decidedly natural approach to water drainage. Hydrological effects of the use of plants and strategically placed bioswales and wetlands help convey and absorb storm water in place, instead of sending it far away in human-built drainage systems. The floods experienced in the UK and elsewhere are often due to a concentration of water where built-systems cannot accept a large volume all at once, as it happens in storms. Environment Agency UK reported as early as 2007 that a failure to absorb water in situ, particularly with new housing and commercial development, could inflict £54.6 million in damages from river and coastal flooding per year.

Investors in land development and homebuilders are increasingly conscious of these factors and are now incorporating such green infrastructure into their planning processes. Of course, dedicating land to green space might reduce the total acreage on which homes and businesses are built, but the increased value of those built acres might offset that cost in the short run and certainly add value over time.

Individuals who are looking at real assets/land investments should consider working with two types of advisors. One would be a land investment funds advisor, expert at taking raw land to productive development. The second would be an independent personal financial advisor, able to assess an investment opportunity relative to one’s overall wealth management portfolio.

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