An empirical study of attitudes towards green urban development

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Chiang Hsieh, Lin-Han
Matisoff, Daniel C.
Noonan, Douglas S.
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This study focuses on how spatial circumstances affect property owners’ preference toward sustainable urban development, in the form of three-essays. In the first essay, property owners’ preference toward the concept of compact development is identified. Compact development is an increasingly popular concept that includes multiple aspects, such as mixed land use, high density, and pedestrian/transit-friendly options. Previous hedonic literature on the comprehensive effect of compact development is limited. Also, spatial dependence in the data, something likely endemic to compact development, has not yet been thoroughly addressed. This study uses a spatial fixed-effect model, a spatial-autoregressive model with auto-regressive disturbances (SARAR), and a spatial fixed-effect SARAR model to determine the price effect of “compactness” in a major U.S. metropolitan area. By analyzing of 47,000 sales records in Fulton County over a decade, this study indicates that home buyers prefer to have smaller, more diffuse greenspace nearby, rather than a large, concentrated greenspace at a longer walking distance. High parcel density and diverse land use is consistently disvalued, and the premium on accessing public transportation is not identified among all models. No specific trend over time has been observed, despite the recession starting in 2008. Finally, a comprehensive index of compactness shows relatively high willingness-to-pay for compact development. The second essay tests the spatial spillover of signaling within the pursuit of LEED certification. The benefit of pursuing green building certification mainly comes from two aspects: the cost-effectiveness from energy efficiency and the signaling consideration, including the premium on property values, benefits from a better reputation, morality values, or purely pride. By analyzing all new constructions that received LEED certification from 2000 to 2012 (LEED-NC v2.0 to v2.2) in the U.S., this study tries to identify the size of the signaling effects, and spillover of signaling, as building owners pursue LEED certification. The results show that the signaling effect affects decision making in pursuing LEED certification, especially at scores around thresholds. The size of signaling effects differs among different owner types and different certificate levels. For the Gold level or below, government and non-profit-organization owners value signaling more than do profit-seeking firms. At the Platinum level, there is no significant difference among owner types. This study also finds that the signaling effect clusters spatially for government and profit-seeking firms. Finally, the results show that the cluster of signaling is independent from the cluster of LEED buildings, indicating that mechanisms behind the cluster of signaling are different from those of LEED constructions. The third essay tests the distance effect on the support for Atlanta BeltLine. Atlanta BeltLine, a large urban redevelopment project currently underway in the center of Atlanta, transforms 22 miles of historical railroad corridors into parks, trails, pedestrian-friendly transit areas, and affordable housing. This study aims to determine the distance effect on the support of Atlanta BeltLine and whether the implement of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) affects the support. The contributions of this exercise are twofold. First, it demonstrates the risks and remedies to missing spatial data by solving the technical problem of missing precise spatial location values. Second, it tests underlying reasons why distance can help explain the level of support that Atlanta BeltLine has received, with striking implications for theories like the Homevoter hypothesis. Survey data used in this study was conducted in summer 2009, about three years after the declaration of the project. The support by both homeowners and renters significantly declines as distance from the BeltLine increases. However, when residents’ tendency to use BeltLine parks and transits is entered as a variable, the distance effect disappears. By indicating that the distance effect comes from homeowners’ and renters’ the accessibility to BeltLine amenities, the result rejects the homevoter hypothesis, which holds that property value increment is the main mechanism behind support. The results also show that whether or not a homeowner or renter is a parent in City of Atlanta affects a person’s support of the BeltLine. These results lead to the conclusion that the concern of TIF affecting future school quality hampers the support of the project.
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