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Home values increase with transit access, report finds

Seattle values transit

Two buses going eastbound and westbound, with a view of Mount Rainier in the background. The LED display of the bus facing the camera says “7 VIA RAINIER.” Oran Viriyincy/Flickr

When searching for a place to live, access to transit can be an important factor. But just how much is it going to cost you?

A new report by real estate listing website Redfin analyzed 14 metropolitan areas, including Seattle, alongside transit scores, a measure by WalkScore that shows how well a location is served by public transit on a scale of 100, with 90 and above considered a “rider’s paradise.”

For home sales between January 2014 and April 2016, Redfin found that on a median-priced home, just one transit score point typically costs $3,360. That’s just under 1 percent of total home value.

While this is higher than the average of $2,040, or .6 percent of a home’s value, it’s not as high as San Francisco. A Bay Area resident can expect to pay $4,845 for just one point.

Redfin chief economist Nela Richardson calls transit “an important building block for economic mobility.”

“The more that cities invest in good transit, the bigger financial impact for homeowners and the better access families of all incomes have to jobs and public amenities,” says Richardson. “Transit is an economic win-win for communities.”

While it’s good news for people who already own homes when transit rolls in, it’s less clear what this data means for renters or people just looking for a home. When we asked Redfin for similar information about rental units, the real estate site was not able to provide it.

It’s a tricky spot for people who aren’t already homeowners in the area: First-time homebuyers and lower-income renters are going to be looking for a spot with easy access to transit for low-cost access to employment, goods, and services, but may not be able to swing that extra housing cost.

It speaks to underlying anxieties about gentrification and increased home costs when new, appealing public transportation comes to traditionally low-income or minority communities.

A Puget Sound Sage report from 2012 found that a year after the light rail started running through South Seattle, wealthier, white populations increased in the Rainier Valley. The subsequent rail package, Sound Transit 3, included built-in affordable housing to help mitigate rising housing costs along the rail corridor.

Still, the premium placed on transit score shows that the Seattle area values their transit—literally.