Does Walkability Matter? An Examination of Walkability’s Impact on Neighborhood Housing Values, Foreclosures, Lifespan, and Crime

The world’s most famous urban planner,  Jane Jacobs, In the Death and Life of Great American Cities, argues that the ideal neighborhood is one that is walkable.  In this study we propose to test these arguments in a study of 170 neighborhoods in a medium size city to see whether walkability matters in terms of measures of  neighborhood sustainability.  She said in her book that there are foot people and car people.  She wrote her book for the foot people.  For fifty years we never had a reliable measure of the social, health, and economic impact of walkable neighborhoods.  This changed dramatically when walk score measures were introduced in 2008.    Walkability measures gauge  how accessible daily living activities are by foot.  We ask how a walkable neighborhood over the past 10 years might impact the quality and sustainability of a neighborhood.  We argue that in several cases, walkability, has a positive impact on neighborhood housing valuation and percent increases in neighborhood valuation.     We developed a hedonic priced equation that controls for recognized independent variables that predict our dependent variables and add in our test variable walk score.    We used walk score (www.walkscore.com) to measure its impact on four broad measures of urban sustainability (neighborhood housing valuation, foreclosures,  crime and human longevity).  Our regression analysis showed that walk score had positive impact on neighborhood housing valuation and life span.  The results also showed that high walk scores reduce crime and foreclosure which was dependent on the specification of  regression model. These results provide a compass for America’s  200 middle weight cities who need to meet the challenge climate change, urban renewal, and declining inner city neighborhoods. We show that improving physical design of cities with green amenities can shape urban fortunes and life chances for the poor and working class.

John I. Gilderbloom Ph.D.

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