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Stroll Toll: the Dark Side of the Hub's Walkability

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We all know the Hub is an eminently walkable area compared to much of the commonwealth and the country. But that walkability comes at a cost, according to a new Brookings Institution report. As one of the authors, Christopher B. Leinberger, put it in The New York Times over the weekend:

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. The report suggests treating walkability with the respect it deserves all down the line:

Lenders, for example, should find cause to integrate walkability into their underwriting standards. Developers and investors should consider walkability when assessing prospects for the region and acquiring property. Local and regional planning agencies should incorporate assessments of walkability into their strategic economic development plans and eliminate barriers to walkable development. Of course, this raises an obvious conundrum: In an area like the Hub that's already really relatively expensive to rent or to own in, even more emphasis on walkability will only drive up rents and sales prices. If, as the urban-planning cognoscenti would now have it, young people are looking not for the perfect home but the perfect neighborhood, won't creating more perfect neighborhoods only preclude young people from buying, even renting, in? They're already a scarce commodity in the Hub to begin with. Maybe we shouldn't have brought this whole thing up.

· Now Coveted: A Walkable, Convenient Place [NY Times]
· Walk this Way:The Economic Promise of Walkable Places in Metropolitan Washington, D.C. [Brookings]
· Decoded: What We Mean When We Mean 'Walkability' [Curbed Boston]
· Why the Hub Housing Market Could Get Worse, Much Worse [Curbed Boston]