Chart of the Day: The “Walkability Premium”

Via City Observatory, here’s a chart showing the so-called “walkability premium” for different US cities, defined as the correlation between increasing “walk score” and housing prices. Minneapolis and Saint Paul are at the very bottom (along with New York, weirdly).

walkability value chart

This is a strange list. Here’s how Joe Cortright describes walkability and home value in the original post:

A key feature of urbanism is walkability, and there’s a strong correlation between walkability—as measured by Walk Score—and increases in home values. Compelling evidence marshalled by Spencer Raskoff and Stan Humphries in their book Zillow Talk illustrates this trend. Over the past 14 years, the most walkable homes—those rated as “walker’s paradises” and “very walkable”—have consistently outperformed houses in lower-scoring, “somewhat walkable” and “car-dependent” neighborhoods. Although all types of homes saw value declines when the housing bubble burst, houses in walkable neighborhoods have recovered most, and fastest.

But what explains the lack of connection in the Twin Ctieis between housing value and walkability?

Alex Cecchini began a discussion of the topic on Twitter:


What do you think?

7 thoughts on “Chart of the Day: The “Walkability Premium”

  1. M

    Our highest home values are on the shores of Lake Minnetonka (low walk score) and then Downtown Minneapolis (high walk score), then Edina and Linden Hills (medium walkscore)- so maybe we just balanced ourselves out too much for walkability to be a major factor?

    Not sure how this plays out in other cities.

  2. Justin

    I think it has to do with a lot of things like how the city is laid out, when parts of it were built, the overall culture, the density, the size. Here’s my analysis:

    NYC is towards the bottom because almost the entire city is at least somewhat walkable (outer parts of outer boroughs are probably average or above average but not great), so a house in a rough neighborhood that still has tons of walkable services and amenities won’t get a bump because of walkability, and someplace like the Upper East Side (which is walkable, but doesn’t have the density of services and amenities like you might see in Lower Manhattan) probably is expensive precisely because it was built to be a little quieter and have less foot traffic. Also high housing values there tend to be based a lot on being in a particular neighborhood, so you can have a nice, very walkable neighborhood, but if it isn’t fashionable, the housing values won’t be as high as someplace that is the hot new housing market.

    Minneapolis, on the other hand, has some pricey neighborhoods that are walkable (Uptown/LynLake/Wedge/etc, North Loop, parts of Downtown, Nicollet Island – East Bank, Linden Hills) but also several that are not (Kenwood, all around the lakes except for a couple small areas, all along the creek). It also has walkable neighborhoods that are on the low end of housing values, like most of Whittier, Stevens Square, Phillips, Seward/Cedar/West Bank, Elliot Park, many parts of Northeast. And our lowest value homes? In North, which is not walkable at all. That balances out the richer, less walkable areas, makes it less of a factor citywide.

    Seattle, which has a lot of similarities to Minneapolis, also has the low income, but walkable, neighborhoods near the core, and then secluded, almost suburban, wealthy neighborhoods that are all large homes. Even San Francisco has this to some degree: some of the wealthiest areas and the least wealthy areas are the least walkable (compared to the rest of the city) and then you have a lot of housing value variation when you get into the most walkable areas. But it’s also like NYC in a way: walkability is spread out evenly enough as to not be as much of a factor. No matter where you buy, it’s probably going to be relatively walkable.

    Places like Chicago, Philly, St. Louis, Boston, from what I could tell in my visits to those place and from looking at their walk score maps, only the nicest parts of town seem to have walkable neighborhoods. For instance, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Boston. Outside of the central areas, Boston isn’t all that walkable. Chicago? The walkable parts are concentrated in the wealthier northern neighborhoods and close to downtown. St Louis? Outside of the nice areas, you have a lot of abandoned buildings, so the poorer areas are not walkable and the wealthier areas are. The dense, walkable, lower income neighborhood just isn’t as common in these places. Detroit? The only parts of town that are in good shape at all are also walkable.

    A city like Los Angeles? In the city itself, it’s not very walkable overall, but the most walkable areas are concentrated in the Westside and near Hollywood and tend to be pretty pricey, and the poor or more modest-income places tend to be the least walkable. Some of the richest areas are their own separate cities so they don’t factor in at all.

    Rentals basically throw all this out the window though, since a lot of new upscale rental housing has been built in formerly poor but walkable areas all across the country.

    1. Ben Osa

      The Minnehaha Creek in Minneapolis is a bad example of non-walkable neighborhoods. It has a ton of walkable amenities in Southwest and South Minneapolis with a bunch of thriving commercial nodes (54th and France, 50th and Xerxes, 54th&Penn, 50th&Penn, 50th&Bryant, 50th and Lyndale, 50th and Nicolett, 48th and Chicago, Cedar and Minnehaha, 34th and 50th).

      It also has fantastic parkland to boot.

      Good idea on highs and lows balancing each other out in the City of Minneapolis otherwise Justin.

      – Ben

    2. Nathanael

      What he said about NYC — pretty nearly all of NYC is walkable (despite the killer drivers, who aren’t figured into WalkScore), so the premium isn’t very high.

      A high premium would be expected to be present in places with a small, but significant, amount of walkable area and a large amount of unwalkable area.

  3. wanderer

    I’ve been told there isn’t a national database of conditions of the pedestrian environment like sidewalk availability, roadway speed etc. That’s why walkscore relies on walking distance to stores and services.

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