First of all I would like to say that i have lived all my life in walkable neighborhoods and i really like them. I don’t see myself living in a suburban dispersed neighborhood. Having said that, i really doubt the thesis that people pay premiums for walkability. Christopher B. Leinberger states in his article “Here comes the neighborhood” that the future of real estate resides in the increasing demand for walkable neighborhoods. In his opinion, housing prices are subject to decline more in suburban areas than in urban neighborhoods in downturn periods.
I would like to believe this but i think the reason why housing prices are higher in urban areas is not walkability but highed replacement costs. I also doubt the idea that demand will shift towards more urban and walkable neighborhoods any time soon.The main reason i believe this is because i think any major change in the urban form is caused by economic factors and not from change in consumer preferences. Some people might be willing to pay more for a house in a walkable neighborhood, but the main reason for that house to be more expensive than houses in less walkable areas is that the price of land is higher is denser areas than in suburban areas. I also believe that the cost of living in walkable neighborhoods is higher than in suburban areas and that may offset the money we save by driving less.
I don’t have much empirical data to support these thoughts, but my feeling is that the change in consumer preferences with regards walkable neighborhoods will take some time to happen.