The potential loss of on-street parking for protected bike lanes along Columbia Street in Vancouver has prompted Glen Yung of the Hough neighborhood to pack up and leave.
Yung lives on Columbia, and while his seven-member household has been able to make it work with two vehicles, he said they intend to sell their five-bedroom house and roll the dice on a selling price rather than wait on whatever course the city ultimately takes, after it chose to postpone the first phase of the plan following a public outcry.
What bike lanes, parking or swapping one for another means for property values drives some neighbors’ worries and opposition to plans for Columbia Street and McLoughlin Boulevard as the city tries to modernize its transportation infrastructure.
While some project opponents predict the loss of parking could depress prices by 20 percent, assessors and researchers say the impact isn’t simple to determine. One researcher said in some areas, the presence of high-quality infrastructure for bicycles tends to increase nearby property values.
Parking, value worries
Yung is a contractor who flips homes to sell. He also helped with local opposition to the Columbia Street project, and he says plenty of those he has talked to share his worries about their property value.
His place has one off-street parking spot, and while that has worked for his family, Yung’s concern is how well the next residents will manage.
“Whoever lives here, there’s going to be a lot of bodies that live here, and if you don’t have a place for them to park, it changes the economics,” he said.
Instead of looking for larger families, or people interested in offsetting their costs with the home’s newly-added accessory dwelling unit, Yung is concerned his pool of potential buyers will be smaller.
“When you shrink a buyers pool, you put downward pressure on the price,” he said. “If you don’t have a place to put your cars, then it shrinks your buyer pool, that’s all that happens.”
Considering that under 1 percent of Vancouver residents bike to work, he’s not confident the bike lanes will be a huge draw for potential buyers.
Yung said he isn’t necessarily against the Columbia bike project, nor are many he’s talked to (for many, their complaints stem from a perceived lack of transparency and stakeholder inclusion on the city’s part).
He wouldn’t be surprised if a bike lane added value for some properties, but he doubted others will see the same benefit.
He recalled having trouble selling a home where every prospective buyer liked it, but never made an offer. His real estate agent told him they were all turned off by the bus stop right outside.
“All these little things, these little, micro things about the exact location of the property have a huge effect on how you’re able to sell it,” he said. “I can’t see how I can possibly market this huge of a home, with an accessory dwelling unit, and not have sufficient parking for the place.”
Yung said he’s concerned losing parking might mean up to a 20 percent drop in his home’s price.
By the city’s count, the work on Columbia would replace about 385 spaces from the waterfront to 45th Street when completed, and there are about 16 homes along the roadway with no off-street parking.
‘Location, location, location’
On the property assessment side, the impact of parking, bike facilities or really any external changes affecting a given property, tend to be a bit more opaque, according to Clark County Assessor Peter Van Nortwick.
Appraisals are generally reactions to the wider market, he said, and how which factors will make a difference in the assessment, and over what amount of time, is difficult to say.
“Appraisers, were always looking in the rearview mirror,” he said. “Still, the biggest driver on the value of a home is its size, its quality and its condition.
“And location. It’s always location, location, location,” he said.
How street parking affects property values isn’t very well understood, said Jenny Liu, an associate professor at the Toulan School of Urban Studies & Planning at Portland State University.
It’s actually something she’s studying, but part of the challenge has been many cities don’t have a very good inventory of their on-street parking, complicating research.
She’s heard of researchers from University of California-Berkley taking images from Google Earth to count street side parking spaces in San Francisco one by one.
“I think a lot of the evidence in the past has been anecdotal, or case study-based, where you look at one city at a time,” she said.
Bike lanes a value boost?
The impact of bike lanes, especially high-quality bike lanes, is more clear, she said, and her research found they can increase property values.
Her research looked at Portland’s bike facilities and Multnomah County’s property records.
After controlling for wider economic conditions, the seasons and the details of the properties themselves — all of which typically have a greater impact on home price, she said — she found access to higher-quality bike lanes can lead to a statistically significant increase in home values.
Each quarter mile closer to an advanced bike facility meant another $690 premium for single family homes. Additionally, increasing the density of advanced bike facilities within a half-mile led to about $4,000 in value for single-family homes, and about $4,700 for multi-family homes.
“Consumers really prefer this type of upgraded or quality bike infrastructure,” she said. “That typically pays for higher prices that people pay for access to these types of facilities.”
The “quality” infrastructure is important, though, as is the quality of the broader biking system, she said. Simple bike lanes or sparse bike networks didn’t lead to the same increases.
“Sharrows or just striping on the street, those don’t contribute very much if at all to property values,” she said.