Two weeks ago, I wrote that stormwater runoff reduction was the "second biggest" contributor to the annual benefits New York City receives from its street trees. So what's the largest contributor? The annual increase in property values that accrues as trees grow:
Well-maintained trees increase the “curb appeal” of properties. Research comparing sales prices of residential properties with different numbers and sizes of trees suggests that people are willing to pay 3–7% more for properties with ample trees versus few or no trees. One of the most comprehensive studies on the influence of trees on residential property values was based on actual sales prices and found that each large front-yard tree was associated with about a 1% increase in sales price (Anderson and Cordell 1988). Depending on average home sale prices, the value of this benefit can contribute significantly to property tax revenues.The annual increase in property values attributable to NYC's street trees alone is estimated at $52,500,000 per year. The standing value of those trees is far greater, 50-100 times the annual figure, in the billions of dollars. And this study only examined street trees. These figures do not take into account the standing and ever-increasing value of trees, plants, and other landscaping on the properties themselves.
- NYC Municipal Forest Resource Analysis, Appendix D: Methodology, Property Value and Other Benefits [emphasis added]
Take that, Barbara Corcoran.
Many benefits attributed to urban trees are difficult to translate into economic terms. Wildlife habitat, beautification, improved human health, privacy, shade that increases human comfort, sense of place, and well-being are difficult to price. However, the value of some of these benefits may be captured in the property values of the land on which trees stand. To estimate the value of these “other” intangible benefits, research that compares differences in sales prices of houses was used to estimate the contribution associated with trees. The difference in sales price reflects the willingness of buyers to pay for the benefits and costs associated with trees.
- NYC Municipal Forest Resource Analysis, Chapter 4: Benefits of New York's Municipal Trees
The calculation of annual aesthetic and other benefits is tied to a tree’s annual increase in leaf area. When a tree is actively growing, leaf area increases rapidly. At maturity, there may be no net increase in leaf area from year to year, thus there is little or no incremental annual aesthetic benefit for that year, although the cumulative benefit over the course of the entire life of the tree may be large. Since this report represents a 1-year snapshot of the street tree population, benefits reflect the increase in leaf area for each tree over the course of one year. As a result, a very young population of 100 callery pears
will have a greater annual aesthetic benefit than an equal number of mature planetrees. However, the cumulative aesthetic value of the planetrees would be much greater than that of the pear.
Related PostsBarbara Corcoran Hates the Earth, November 18
Factoids: NYC's Street Trees and Stormwater Reduction, November 15
Basic Research: The State of the Forest in New York City, November 12
Preserving Livable Streets: DCP's Yards Text Amendment, November 7
How Much Is a Street Tree Really Worth?, April 9