If a city plants trees near a residential area, most homeowners value the likely subsequent boost to their property values, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.
And they're willing to pay an average of $7 more per month in taxes for public trees planted in their city.
In the UF/IFAS study, 1,052 surveyed Florida homeowners said they'd like the trees on their land to provide shade and to be healthy, but they'd prefer an increase of $1,600 in their home's value.
Residents were separated into two surveys. One asked them to consider a hypothetical home improvement project to better the trees on their property, while the other asked a similar referendum question regarding a city program that would increase their utility tax to increase urban forests in public areas near their homes. There were 526 responses to each survey.
Given a range of paying between $1 and $10 more per month in city utility taxes, survey respondents said they want trees in their cities, but they're only willing to pay up to $7 more per month, said Jose Soto, a post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation.
"Our findings indicate that participants find it useful to invest in urban forest infrastructure and are also willing to pay for the benefits of having more trees near their homes," Soto said.
Damian Adams, a UF/IFAS associate professor of forest resources and conservation and an Extension specialist, said the study's findings are consistent with basic economic theory. All things considered, people want more value for their property, and more trees can add money to their home's appraisal.
"Basically people are driven at least in part, by economic values associated with planting trees, but they appear to be more sensitive to the property value effects of planting trees than other factors," Adams said. "They are clearly concerned about tree shade too, which can lower energy bills and hence reduce costs. But tree shade also increases outdoor enjoyment and aesthetic benefits, which just makes people happy, and that's worth something."
It is important to note that while Florida homeowners are willing to pay more for public trees, some Florida programs give trees away for free, and some actually plant trees near homes -- for example, in Tampa, Soto said.
Tampa has a program called "Tree-mendous Tampa," in which the city plants free trees in public rights-of-way. You can find more information on that program here: http://bit.ly/25Lkrl3. Other cities, such as Portland, Oregon, compensate residents for planting trees, Soto said.
Soto and Adams presented their findings this month at the 2016 Agricultural & Applied Economics Association Annual meeting in Boston.
Materials provided by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Original written by Brad Buck. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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