Reuters

A new survey attempts to put a personal price tag on access to green space

People want green space in their cities. Some want it so much they’re willing to pay for it.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield in England have surveyed residents in two cities about green space in their neighborhoods to find out how much they’d be willing to pay in either local taxes or housing costs for more. The surveys show that some residents would be willing to pay more than $560 per year to have greener spaces in their community.

To gauge how much residents would be willing to spend for improvements to their public green spaces, researchers used renderings and images of potential new open spaces that could be added to the community and asked people how much they’d be willing to spend for each improvement.

On Whitworth Street in Manchester, members of the public pay an average of £2.20 per month for street cleaning and £1.50 per month to maintain green spaces through council tax. The survey found that people were willing to pay an extra £1.46 per month to maintain the street in its current state, an extra £1.61 per month if small ornamental trees were planted and up to £2.33 extra per month for large forest trees and grass landscaping.

Meanwhile, in Sheffield city centre near Blonk Street, rents or mortgage payments for small apartments are around £575 per month. The study found that people were willing to pay £4.27 more per month to maintain the new footbridge, riverside walkway and flood defence works that have recently been completed. If additional landscaping was undertaken in the area they would pay £8.00 more per month. However, they said that they would pay even more – an extra £10.81 per month – if the natural vegetation of the riverside was allowed to re-establish itself.

The researchers note that when offered a variety of alternatives, people reported a greater willingness to pay more when the scenario included more green space.

It’s a good thing they’d be willing to pay more because much previous research suggests that they’d have to. As this brief paper by John L. Crompton notes, study after study has found a positive correlation between property values and proximity to parks and open spaces – the closer your house is to a park, the more it’s worth.

That parks are desirable is not really a newsflash, but this research does prompt some consideration. If people are willing to pay, what are they willing to pay for? How well-designed must a space be to get people to open their checkbooks? And, for the less-than-altruistic developer, how little must be provided for people to find value in it?

Photo credit: Marcos Brindicci/Reuters

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