WA: Homes along Fourth Plain near C-Tran's Vine route jumped in value 5-7% more than average, says study

Feb. 8, 2024
Homes within a 20-minute walk of the bus rapid transit line saw property values that have been boosted by an extra five to seven percent since the line opened in 2017.

Feb. 3—Homes within a 20-minute walk of a Vine on Fourth Plain station experienced a boost in their property values since the bus rapid transit line opened in early 2017, according to a new study.

The study measured an estimated 5 percent to 7 percent price premium for those homes — roughly $350 million total. That's in addition to the overall rise in housing prices over that time. The research suggests that rapid transit lines signal to the real estate market that the corridor will continue to see investment and development.

"I think there's been a real dramatic change in the neighborhood," said Jordan Taylor, who lives a few blocks from the Fourth Plain bus rapid transit line, also known as the Green Vine. "Our neighborhood is flooded with foot traffic now."

Taylor has lived in Vancouver's Hough neighborhood since 2015, moving to his current home in 2019. According to county records, Taylor said the property value of his home has gone up about 64 percent since 2017, although he can't say if that's due to proximity to the Green Line.

The new research suggests it is. Professors Justin Tyndall at University of Hawaii at Manoa and Justin Beaudoin at Acadia University in Canada published their study, "The Effect of Bus Rapid Transit on Local Home Prices," in the August 2023 edition of Research in Transportation Economics.

C-Tran, which operates Clark County's transit, was not involved in and did not fund the study. C-Tran officials had not previously examined bus rapid transit's impact on home prices, according to Eric Florip, the agency's manager of communications and marketing.

There's a good reason why: Few studies examine bus rapid transit's effect on home prices in midsized U.S. cities, Tyndall said. The bulk of the literature on the subject focuses on bus rapid transit systems in Asia and South America.

Tyndall and Beaudoin's findings are in line with the international data.

The study's results surprised Tyndall. He hypothesized that C-Tran's first bus rapid transit line would have a smaller impact on home prices than is seen internationally because, when compared to light rail, bus rapid transit is less permanent and does not signal to developers and homebuyers that this will be an amenity for decades.

C-Tran's bus rapid transit (also known as BRT) lines lack the traffic-signal priority and dedicated lanes found in other systems, although the Vine does have stops with fixtures and raised platforms.

"It's a signal from the government to the real estate market that this will be a corridor that will see developments and we see those real estate effects pick up," Tyndall said.

Tyndall and Beaudoin looked at two different sets of home values.

One set controlled for observable characteristics of a home like the square footage and number of bedrooms and bathrooms but didn't consider factors like the quality of a countertop, for example. The second examined houses sold both before and after the Vine opened.

Both analyses were similar.

"It would definitely jump straight (from the) family home to the multifamily complex. That's typically what you see in the growth of any community, is the density going up, zoning gets changed and the best use for that property sort of finds its way in there through the invisible hands of capitalism," said Vancouver City Councillor Bart Hansen who serves on the C-Tran board and is the executive director for the Business Industries Association.

Hansen said one of the best uses for properties along the BRT lines is multi-family homes.

"It's definitely an enhancement in our public transportation — which can be seen as an amenity," Hansen said. "It's what could be the potential use of the property 10 or 20 years down the road and what does that do to the value increases."

Although the bus-rapid transit line may increase housing supply or goad local retail interests, the study suggests that it could also spur gentrification, that is, renewal of run-down areas that leads to displacement of low-income residents.

Vancouver neighborhoods that have a 95 percent white population had a 1 percent decline in property value, according to the study. Meanwhile, neighborhoods with a 60 percent white population share had a nearly 17 percent jump in property value.

"One of the defenses of BRT is that it won't be an engine for gentrification to the same extent that light rail can be, but our evidence suggests that might not be the case," Tyndall said.

Property tax

To recoup some of the value created by future bus rapid transit lines, Tyndall and Beaudoin suggest future bus rapid transit lines be funded by a one-time property tax levy on homeowners near the line — equivalent to about $120 per household along the Green Vine.

The levy would generate enough capital to pay for construction costs.

"(Property tax levies) are potentially underutilized in the U.S., we don't have a lot of examples of it being applied," Tyndall said. "But in a world of scarce resources, it requires a lot of organization to get funding for transit projects, it seems like a potentially useful mechanism, but particularly for BRT as the costs aren't enormous."

"A takeaway would be that one way to convince them is to show them evidence that this type of system will make them wealthier," Tyndall said. "The benefits of this system — all the homeowners along the corridor in Vancouver we find are wealthier by 5 percent of their home's value, which in an expensive housing market is a huge amount of money."

C-Tran officials do not anticipate pursuing a property tax.

"It's really always been the case that sales tax has been our primary funding source," Florip said. "Property taxes have really not been on the radar."

Florip said property tax levies aren't being considered as an operating funding source for other transit systems either.

C-Tran officials are currently planning two new lines of bus rapid transit: Highway 99 and the Fourth Plain Boulevard extension, from Van Mall to either the Fisher's Landing or Mill Plain Transit Center.

Both lines are expected to start service in 2027 and have an estimated price tag of $52 million.

"The study reinforces the benefits of quality transit, and that (it is) more than just people on the bus," Florip said. "Public transportation is part of the larger fabric of any healthy community."

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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