Leinberger's new study, co-authored with Mariela Alfonzo, compared the values of commercial and residential real estate in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area with an area's walkability; and their findings have proven the reversal of the common understanding of where the most valuable real estate can be found.
"Our research shows that real estate values increase as neighborhoods became more walkable, where everyday needs, including working, can be met by walking, transit or biking. There is a five-step 'ladder' of walkability, from least to most walkable. On average, each step up the walkability ladder adds $9 per square foot to annual office rents, $7 per square foot to retail rents, more than $300 per month to apartment rents and nearly $82 per square foot to home values."
And walkable doesn't have to mean downtown. "Demand for walkable urban space extends beyond city centers to suburbs; in metropolitan Washington, more than half of the walkable places are in the suburbs, like Reston Town Center, 22 miles from downtown Washington; Ballston, in Arlington County; and Silver Spring, in suburban Maryland."
The flip side of the rising value of walkable places in the accompanying loss of affordable housing that many cities are struggling with. Leinberger proposes some short and long-term strategies for improving affordability. "To address the affordability challenge, a sensible strategy would include changes like zoning that allows homes with units in the back or over the garage. But the long-term solution is encouraging the building of more walkable places, which will reduce the price premiums by creating more supply."