June 22, 2024

Great Lakes property values increase with pollution remediation

A University of Michigan study led by the School for Environment and Sustainability showed that property values around the Great Lakes are rising as pollution remediation efforts increase. These efforts include contaminated sediment removal, wetland restoration and cleaning up the shoreline. 

This research focused on designated Areas of Concern in Great Lake shoreline communities in both the U.S. and Canada. These areas were deemed to be of concern in 1987 when the two countries signed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement   to better manage the lakes as a common resource.  

Due to pollution remediation efforts sourced from different federal grants, property values increased by an average of $27,295 per house.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Michael Moore, co-author of the study and professor of environmental economics, spoke about the need for a database that incorporates the costs of preservation efforts in estimated property values.  

“Things like controlling invasive species, improving habitat and species numbers, and controlling nonpoint pollution into the lakes really makes a difference with the AOC’s property values,” Moore said. “We are trying to get an expanded database where we can think about the housing market, as the medium through which the environmental benefits of restoration can get captured through this capitalization of property values.” 

As an environmental economist, Moore felt the study demonstrated the success story behind remediation efforts, pointing out that the financial benefits outweighed the costs. 

“The benefits of $8.7 billion (property cost values totaled) outweigh the remediation costs of $2.1 million, which makes for a four to one ratio,” Moore said. “This (study) is looking at the ecological significance of the application of these programs and from this study, we found that there was a positive economic success story.”  

In the future, Moore hopes the Environmental Protection Agency will grant researchers access to a second database of Great Lakes property data so they can continue the study. 

Study co-author Alecia Cassidy, who worked on the research as a doctoral student, wrote in an email to The Daily about the benefits of effects of pollution remediation efforts on AOC homeowners. 

“We would have thought that people already know that they live near a polluted lake, but the fact that housing prices dropped so much means that perhaps a lot of citizens are unaware of what is lurking in the water near their house,” Cassidy said. “We hope that our quantification of the payoff to grants to the AOCs can be helpful to the Great Lakes Community. Federal money can make a real difference to revitalizing these areas.”

LSA senior Steven Driest, policy chair for Students for Clean Energy, spoke with The Daily about his thoughts regarding the study.

“I do not find it all surprising that the recent efforts to clean up the Great Lakes and the surrounding watershed resulted in increased property values,” Driest said. “I did find it interesting that the cost of these remediation efforts did not outweigh the increased property values. This is great news for future remediation efforts as such efforts can actually improve the strength of local economies.”

Driest also said the results of such studies are beneficial in gaining public approval and appreciation for pollution remediation efforts. 

“Given many Americans are not that interested in protecting the environment, I believe convincing these groups is a matter of marketing,” Driest said. “If you can explain the derived economic benefits, you have a greater chance of garnering broad public approval. This is an approach that clean energy advocates need to take as utility-scale solar and wind is now officially the cheapest form of energy generation.”

Daily News Reporter Emma Lapp can be reached at emmalapp@umich.edu.

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