Transit, Telework, and Housing Markets: Investigating Locational Preferences for Transit-oriented Development in Pre- and Post-Pandemic Canadian Cities

Higgins, Christopher D. | $64,200

Ontario University of Toronto 2021 SSHRC

Over the past several decades, policies that promote higher density, mixed use, compact, and transit-oriented development have been implemented as a means of achieving urban vitality and more sustainable growth around the world. Previous research into property markets and individual and household preferences has demonstrated that there is demand amongst certain segments of the population for living in neighbourhoods that offer rapid transit accessibility and higher-density built environments rich in urban amenities.

However, the global COVID‑19 pandemic has resulted in a significant shock to the urban systems of many cities, including those in Canada. Early evidence suggests that social distancing measures and increases in remote work have contributed to plummeting transit ridership and a shift in locational preferences for more suburban development. While it remains unclear how transportation systems and housing markets will adjust as we emerge from the pandemic, its disruptive effects on the urban spatial structure of cities requires further investigation.

From a research perspective, previous work examining how individuals and households value transit accessibility and transit-oriented development in housing markets has been conducted under the assumption that individual or household preferences remain (relatively) static and that there will be demand for the benefits of planning interventions that promote more sustainable forms of development. But what happens in the opposite scenario, where transportation services and urban form remain constant and preferences rapidly change? To answer this question, the proposed research seeks to analyze the relationship between property market indicators, household locational preferences and travel patterns, and the demand for urban and suburban built environments.

This work is spread over four objectives. First, the project team will classify different neighbourhoods in major Canadian cities according to their transportation and land use context and link results with the real estate transaction data. Next, we will complete the first comparative analysis of how transit and other urban amenities are valued in Canadian cities and explore whether and how the value of these amenities changes across the pre-, mid-, and post-pandemic periods. The third objective is to collect survey data on homebuyer preferences to better understand the factors informing their locational decisions and the prevalence of spatial (mis)matches between preferences and urban amenities. Finally, the fourth objective is to fuse the survey data with property transaction information for a novel mixed-methods approach that will provide new insight into not only the value associated with where individuals or households choose to live, but also information on who is making these decisions and why.

The proposed research benefits from team expertise in urban and transportation geography, quantitative methods, and survey design. Moreover, this research is enabled by access to a cross-Canada database of real estate transaction data and is supported by seed funding from the Suburban Mobilities research cluster at the University of Toronto Scarborough. In addition to providing the first spatio-temporal analyses of property markets and the role of homebuyer preferences in Canadian communities, the results of our work will provide actionable information on met and unmet demand for more sustainable forms of urban development that can inform planning and policy for improved social, environmental, and economic outcomes. While the COVID‑19 virus is likely to eventually be viewed as a serious but temporary disruption, it is critical to assess its effects on longer-term goals related to achieving urban sustainability.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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