Restoring Great Lakes Waterways Will Boost Property Values

A recent study finds that cleaning up the heavily polluted Buffalo River would dramatically improve property values in neighborhoods like the Old First Ward, which sits directly behind this industrial facility.

Real estate typically gets more expensive the closer you get to the waterfront. But that is not always the case in grey and gritty Buffalo, the second-largest city in the state of New York, situated along the rocky shores of Lake Erie. In neighborhoods like the Old First Ward, located beside the Buffalo River, property actually depreciates due to extensive pollution buried beneath the waterway, according to a study recently released by a group of local officials, economists, and scientists.That’s the bad news for this de-industrializing city trying to kick its Rust Belt image.

The good news is that the study, which was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, also found that prospective homebuyers would be willing to pay 15 percent more for homes near the Buffalo River if the contamination was eliminated. That could trigger as much as an additional $543 million in taxable value for the properties near the degraded river in downtown Buffalo.

Comparable studies of property values beside the Sheboygan River in Wisconsin and Waukegan Harbor in Illinois have returned similar results, reinforcing the idea that an investment in Great Lakes restoration will lead to significant and long-lasting economic returns.

An abandoned factory beside the Buffalo River is contributing to a degraded quality of life, depressed property values, and poor environmental conditions in downtown Buffalo.
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