Housing in disadvantaged areas is more affordable, however, cities would be more equitable if disadvantaged areas were walkable and amenity rich; and existing liveable neighbourhoods had more social housing.

For the attention of: Urban planners and city governments

The problem: Access to affordable housing supports peoples’ health and wellbeing, yet, not all houses are affordable nor are they located in amenity rich liveable neighbourhoods.

Typically, more established neighbourhoods are amenity-rich and more liveable whilst amenity-poor neighbourhoods are more affordable but located in outer-suburban locations, placing people far from the places and destinations they need.

By incorporating disadvantage, our research explored an overlooked aspect of the relationship between housing affordability, walkability and the built environment.

What we did and why: We studied whether relationships between walkability and house prices (i.e., price premiums or discounts) differed by neighbourhood-level disadvantage.  We did this by using hedonic pricing models stratified by five levels of disadvantage using data from metropolitan Melbourne, Australia and explanatory built environment variables including walkability and its components (street connectivity, dwelling density and destination access), and public transit access.   Hedonic pricing models are useful for measuring the value of environmental features when no other estimates exist.

What our study adds: We found that:

  • destination access increased house prices;
  • distance from transit reduced house prices;
  • disadvantaged neighbourhoods had lower levels of walkability compared to more advantaged neighbourhoods;
  • the association between walkability and house prices was weakest in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Our findings suggest that houses in disadvantaged neighbourhoods were more affordable because they lacked amenity in terms of walkability, destination access and transit.

Implications for city policy and practice: Future planning could redress inequities in walkability and housing affordability by retrofitting existing neighbourhoods and making new neighbourhoods more walkable from the outset. Increasing densities in outer suburban areas could make destination and transit provision and access more viable. However, in established amenity rich neighbourhoods with good access to destinations and transit, inclusionary zoning policies could reduce inequities by ensuring these neighbourhoods have social and affordable housing.

Full research article: Exploring inequities in housing affordability through an analysis of walkability and house prices by neighbourhood socioeconomic disadvantage by Lucy D. Gunn, Tayebeh Saghapour, Billie Giles-Corti & Gavin Turrell.